Saturday, December 17, 2005

standing update

Our friend Mike had some follow-up information on yesterday's post about audiences standing during the "Hallelujah Chorus." He had looked it up on the Internet and found that many think it dates back to 1743 when King George was bothered by his piles. It's definitely not just a Southern thing, they stand in New Zealand too. A recent Baltimore Sun article says the story about the king may not be true:

Speaking of scholars, they've also pretty much debunked one of the persistent traditions associated with the work - the practice of standing for the "Hallelujah" Chorus.

The familiar story has it that King George II, attending the first London performance of the piece in 1743, suddenly jumped up, reasons unspecified, during the singing of what has become the most familiar of all Messiah excerpts. And when the king stood, everyone else automatically had to do the same.

The only problem is that no record of that monarch's attendance has ever surfaced. He may have gone unannounced, but, in that case, probably would not have attracted the attention needed to get everyone upright. At any rate, the first written mention of the standing tradition appears to be from the mid-1750s, and it refers to standing for choral numbers - plural. Go figure.

The former music director of the Knoxville Symphony, Kirk Trevor, can't get away from standing audiences He's quoted in a recent Indianapolis Star article:
As for the tradition of the audience standing for the "Hallelujah" chorus, ostensibly because a monarch once stood for it, Trevor isn't thrilled about it. "Standing during the 'Hallelujah' rather detracts from the performance," he said.
"Suddenly, the spirit and the magic of 'Messiah' is lost by this circus trick of standing up for no other reason than some English king 300 years ago wanted to go to the bathroom."
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