Note: The main substance of what’s here is in the comments left by readers like you. Take time to read some or all…
We live in a world where many formal traditions are dying out. I was thinking a few days ago how the mug has replaced the cup and saucer. How a generation of North American men don’t know how to tie a tie. How the courtesy of a reply to a letter has gone the way of the dinosaur.
Wikipedia tells us the origin of the tradition under consideration here:
In many parts of the world, it is the accepted practice for the audience to stand for this section of the performance. The tradition is said to have originated with the first London performance of Messiah, which was attended by King George II. As the first notes of the triumphant Hallelujah Chorus rang out, the king rose to his feet and remained standing until the end of the chorus. Royal protocol has always dictated that when the monarch stands, everyone in their presence is also required to stand. Thus, the entire audience and orchestra stood when the king stood during the performance, initiating a tradition that has lasted more than two centuries. It is lost to history the exact reason why the King stood at that point, but the most popular explanations include:
- He was so moved by the performance that he rose to his feet.
- Out of tribute to the composer.
- As was and is the custom, one stands in the presence of royalty as a sign of respect. The Hallelujah chorus clearly places Christ as the King of Kings. In standing, King George II accepts that he too is subject to the Lord of Lords.
- He had been dozing and woke with a start.
But it could be argued that, “that was then and this is now.” I mean, if historians can’t agree as to the why, perhaps it really leaves us with a tradition that is somewhat empty.
So, with Handel’s Messiah being performed frequently at this time of the year, should audiences continue the tradition of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus? Be sure to read the comments and take a moment to add yours.