~The Hallelujah Chorus (1)
George Frederick Handel, the great musician, lost his health; his
right side was paralyzed; his money was gone; and his creditors seized
and threatened to imprison him.
Handel was so disheartened by his tragic experience that he
almost despaired for a brief time. But his faith prevailed, and he
composed his greatest work, “The Hallelujah Chorus,” which is part
of his great Messiah.
—Sunday School Times
The Hallelujah Chorus (2)
Martin Luther once said, “The heart of religion is in its
I once attended, in the Royal Albert Hall, London, a magnificent
rendering of Handel’s “Messiah” by a choir of several hundred. The
friend who accompanied me was a dear saint of God, then in his
When the “Hallelujah Chorus” rose to its stupendous heights,
“King of kings, and Lord of lords,” my friend could hardly contain
The tears were streaming from his clear, blue eyes and he
whispered to me: “That was my Savior they were singing about.”
I shall never forget the meaning he put into that word “my.”
—Leslie D. Weatherhead
The Hallelujah Chorus (3)
The uninitiated who attend a performance of Handel’s “Messiah”
are frequently surprised when, at the first notes of the “Hallelujah
chorus,” the whole audience desire to pay homage to the words by
But if that be the case, they might as well stand during the
whole oratorio. Others imagine that everyone stands because of the
intense enjoyment in the music some audience had a hundred and fifty
years ago, which brought them to their feet.
But this is said to be the truth of the matter: At one of the
early performances of his grand oratorio, the king of England, George I,
During the singing of this chorus, His Majesty, either greatly
enjoying the music, or perhaps simply desiring to change his position,
stood up; at once the courtiers and people followed suit, thus
originating a custom which is quite pleasant in view of the physical
relief afforded by the change of posture in a two-hour performance.
The Hallelujah Chorus (4)
One day a young
Indian named Bill Hayes came to George Walker, the missionary on the
Pima reservation, in Arizona and said: Mr. Walker, our choir would like
to learn to sing the Hallelujah Chorus.
did you ever hear the Hallelujah Chorus? It’s big music, Bill.
we never heard it, but we understand it’s pretty good.
Bill it’s tremendous! But it’s very hard to learn, and it’s the
sort of thing you wouldn’t want to spoil by singing it poorly.
just stood there, and finally said: Well, we could at least try,
choir members worked hard at odd jobs until they had accumulated
thirty-five dollars for the musical scores. The books came, and that
same night the choir assembled for their first practice. In fact, the
whole village assembled to see the project launched.
studied the music for a while and then started dinging with one finger
on the scarred old piano. What Bill lacked in technique and experience,
he made up in infinite patience and determination.
picked out the soprano part with his one finger and turned to the
soprano section. You sing that much. They sang it over several times.
Then the same for the altos, and the tenors, and the bases. Over and
over again, then, Now, everybody sing that much. They worked at it for
months. The old piano groaned under the one-fingered musician. The choir
labored under the 115-degree Arizona heat. They sang a measure at a
time, repeated endlessly.
Walker said that wherever you went during those months you could hear
snatches being sung by youngsters and grown-ups alike. Children played
ball while singing, Haa-le-lu-yuh. The farmer, irrigating his beans,
sang For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!
Bill was at last ready to do a full rehearsal with full accompaniment.
They still had never heard the chorus played by an accomplished
musician, and had never heard it sung. Bill came to Mr. Walker:
you get us a musician to play the piano for us so we could hear all the
parts? We want to see if we can do it with all the parts just right.
Walker recruited a music teacher from the state university. They were
all waiting when the missionary and his friend arrived. All of the
villagers were present on this night of nights.
pianist cringed as she tested the old piano; it was tuned one whole note
lower than standard pitch. The choir rose in unison putting their music
books behind them, stared resolutely at their director.
gave their best. This was their supreme moment, and they felt all of its
King of Kings... and Lord of Lords...
And He shall reign for ever and ever...
finished, and a sigh of relief swept over the entire assemblage. There
wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Both the accompanist and George Walker
were too choked up even to speak.
driving a quarter of a mile, Walker got his voice.
me, how did they do? Another quarter of a mile and the accompanist
revived—Oh! Mr. Walker—it was perfect—perfect. Another pause and
she said—How I wish Handel could have heard those Indians sing!