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Weekly e-Gram for members and friends of Dublin Community Church

December 17, 2010


It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

It was the best for us in church. It was a Sunday morning and we had special music to celebrate the Holiday Season. It was also the best because, while the weather was at its worst, we sat in the sanctuary and watched the choir, soloists and organist on the west side of the sanctuary as the snow fell outside our large windows.

The next-door cemetery and its historic stone fence were being covered with snow. We all knew we would have to deal with the snow when we left the sanctuary but for that hour we had a worship service and it was filled with music.

The choir sang one Messiah passage that morning for their anthem. There were two solo works. The postlude was a duet of the Hallelujah Chorus.

Before the service began, as I was looking at the bulletin again. It seemed a shame that when the organist and pianist were playing a duet on that moving chorus, that the congregation would be finding their hats and coats and replacing hymnals and filing out of the sanctuary.

I made an executive decision. “Let’s ask the congregation to stay, and not file out during the Hallelujah Chorus postlude.” The two musicians were fine with that.

I also suggested that we sit for the chorus, “even though tradition has it that we remain standing.” Some of our younger musicians said, “Huh?” Meaning that this centuries old tradition of standing for the Hallelujah chorus isn’t much of a tradition these days.

Back when I was in high school our concert choir would sing the Hallelujah Chorus to conclude our Holiday extravaganza. The choir would circle the auditorium, the house lights were down and choir members held candles (battery operated!) and the choir director instructed the audience to remain seated, “so the choir can see the director.”

I didn’t recall anything adverse happening to us or the audience because of not standing. So, I asked the congregation this past week to be seated and enjoy the music (and the snowfall outside).

According to history or legend, when Handel performed the Hallelujah Chorus in Covent Garden in London, King George II was so moved by its grandeur that he stood. And when a king stands, everyone stands! Tradition was born! People stand for the Hallelujah Chorus!

I think most were OK with sitting the other day. I heard that a visitor was bent out of shape because we did not stand and complained throughout the chorus. But, I figure that sitting and quietly listening is preferable to standing and complaining. This standing-tradition thing was not ordained by God or the Pope. (And besides, I read about this tradition via the internet, so how could my information possibly be wrong?)

I think we are comfortable with the tradition, as it has evolved. I’m sure we offended few gods or elders. I doubt we offended Handel himself because we were seated during the Hallelujah Chorus.

Nothing adverse ever happened to us back in high school either, simply because the audience was asked to remain seated. Though it does occur to me that that particular high school auditorium where we sang the Hallelujah Chorus and asked the audience to sit …. has now been torn down.

So, perhaps belated apologies to George Frideric Handel and King George II (and our one vocal visitor) are in order. Nevertheless, I and hundreds of others, greatly enjoyed the morning.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing

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