Singing from the same Hymn sheet

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Messiah in the National Concert Hall Dublin
View from the Choir Balcony at the National Concert Hall, Dublin

Well, you probably know that Handel’s Messiah was first performed in Dublin’s Fishamble Street on the 13th of April, 1742 and you might’ve heard that because of all the publicity that the public rehearsals had generated, the poster for the first performance asked ladies not to wear hoops and gentlemen not to bring their swords (in order to save space).

Yes indeed, that’s all true but there is still a question about why the audience stands up during the Hallelujah chorus.  Supposedly King George II was so moved during the London première of the Messiah that he stood up – and then everyone else followed suit (good etiquette, don’t you know, to stand when the king stands).

However, my extensive research into this matter has revealed that the first written mention of King George II standing up during the Hallelujah chorus doesn’t occur until several decades after the première, raising the question as to whether or not it happened at all.

In any case, I wouldn’t be inclined to stand up just because some old king stood up but I have to admit that this particular chorus is definitely uplifting so yes, no harm in stretching the legs at this point.

Finally, we were a bit late in booking the tickets this year so the only seats left were in the Choir Balcony.  These are the cheapest seats but let me tell you – they are probably the best!  We were behind the stage, behind the choir but we could practically read the sheet music and we could see every facial expression and gesture by the conductor Proinnsías Ó Duinn and it was truly fascinating to watch.  It almost felt like we were part of the choir!

But what do you think?  Should we all stand up when they sing the Hallelujah?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messiah_(Handel)

https://www.cmc.ie/composers/proinnsias-o-duinn

https://www.oliviercornetgallery.com/

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9 comments

  1. Very funny piece, Eoin, you have a comedic streak too! But I don’t think you told us where the performance of Handel’s Messiah was held, other than that you enjoyed it from the Choir Balcony. Where? I’m sure I could google it, but thought you might like to fill in the details yourself.

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  2. Grma. I saw a performance in St. Patrick’s Cathedral years ago (my first opera and first time in there too) with which I was impressed. Performers on occasion stood on pews to declaim/ sing and we were not far from them. British military banners hanging all around could, for awhile, be ignored. I wouldn’t be standing for any king either (nor even shaking the hand at some reception, nor lifting a glass to a Queen, which a certain national poet did some years after claiming that had never been done in his family) but I do remember being glad to “be upstanding” to vow solidarity with other members when I joined the Amalgamated Engineering Union in London decades ago.

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