Thinking Out Loud

December 14, 2010

Hallelujah Chorus: Should Audiences Still Stand?

Filed under: Christmas, music — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:51 pm

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.

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102 Comments »

  1. “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?“

    Should church audiences continue the tradition of retaining the notion that the organ is the only instrument that should be used during sacred worship services, instead of drums, electric guitars, etc?

    A lot of what I would consider respect for reverence during church worship has greatly diminished. For me, Handel’s Messiah has more entertainment value than that of liturgical worship, so it wouldn’t bother me the least to sit during the whole performance — it doesn’t add to or diminish the effect or intention of the performance. When in Rome (the King’s presence) then do as in Rome if that is apropos; and when somewhere else where it is not the convention or tradition, then do likewise.

    Comment by Paul B — December 14, 2010 @ 10:27 pm

  2. I will just say this…even if no one else stood with me, I would stand. There is something so overwhelmingly noble and breathtaking about that tribute to Christ…Messiah! I envision heaven when that last song is sung and cannot conceive of sitting! I hope that the tradition remains.

    Comment by Cynthia — December 14, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

    • That’s the view I lean to as well. It means that yes, there is this quirky tradition about one particular piece of music.

      But the payoff is huge: It draws us into the power of the lyrics.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 14, 2010 @ 10:55 pm

    • I attended a Mannheim Steamroller concert this weekend. Toward the end of the concert they performed Handel’s Messiah. It was glorious! No one stood. However, when it came to the part where my mind knew the words, “King of Kings, forever and ever…” began, I could not remain seated! I had to stand out of honor for my King. After several stanza’s someone behind me asked me to sit down, they couldn’t see. I was so sad. I did not want to creat a problem but, God knows in my heart I was still standing!

      Comment by Wendy — December 11, 2012 @ 8:26 am

      • Bravo! This morning I attended an Easter Service and automatically stood up when they began singing the Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah. I was the only one in the entire congregation who was on their feet besides the choir. While I am sure some were embarrassed for me, my heart felt full of the message. I, too, have sung it with dozens of groups and am now 76 and my voice is not longer good enough to sing it, but I can still rise to the occasion and felt sad that others did know or realize they should have been standing, too. I doubt the last explanation cited above was true. How could anyone doze off during Handel’s “Messiah”, which by the way was written by this magnificent talent, in 14 days! Please carry on the tradition, whether in praise of God, or praise of the composer, it is worthy of rising to our feet!

        Comment by Charlotte "Toni" Brendel — April 20, 2014 @ 6:43 pm

      • Good for you! Wow, Handel’s Messiah for Easter…I have never heard it performed for Easter but really there isn’t a better time!

        Comment by Wendy — April 20, 2014 @ 7:14 pm

    • I completely agree–we always seem to be dumping wonderful traditions. This is just one more I think we should save.

      Comment by Susan — December 23, 2014 @ 11:42 am

      • I attended a performance of Messiah at Carnegie Hall about 15 years ago. The entire audience rose to its feet for tne Hallelujah Chorus and broke into massive applause at the end. A reverent, tear-inducing moment. Will never forget it.

        Comment by Frank Murphy — December 4, 2016 @ 7:02 pm

    • i absolutely agree. There is much to be said about tradition

      Comment by Patty — March 7, 2015 @ 11:50 am

    • Oddly enough, I agree with both takes on standing for the Hallelujah chorus, with one exception: anywhere, any time but during a Catholic Mass. Magnificent as the piece is (and it’s probably the musical equivalent of the Sistine Chapel ceiling), it’s obviously not in the same class as the Presence of Christ, nor is it a sacrament in iitself nor even a sacramental. I suppose the act of reverence (standing, in this case) centers on to whom we’re paying such homage–Handel or Christ.

      Comment by M. J. McManus — December 25, 2016 @ 12:57 am

  3. Me again!

    I found this in my files after writing today’s post:

    http://christianity201.wordpress.com/2010/11/10/taking-the-message-to-the-streets-and-malls/

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 14, 2010 @ 10:55 pm

  4. Having sung in many performances of Messiah, I can only state that the power and majesty of the Halleluja Chorus simply prompts the audience to stand, especially if they feel the urge to join in and sing along. As for the various traditions surrounding the standing, I have my own theory. Raised catholic, during sunday mass, it was proper to stand when any form of Halleluja was sung preceding the reading of the Gospel. While the Hallelujah is not sung during lent, another appropriate song of praise is sung, and the congregation still stands as it is still announcing a reading from the gospels.

    Comment by david — December 21, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

  5. Having sung the Messiah many times, I feel moved to stand at either the singing or the playing of the Hallelujah Chorus. It is a tradition, the same as standing when the flag passes by that I will observe as long as I live. The power of the words are so great that I am moved to stand in awe of my Lord. If I am the only one, as I have been many times in our new society when the flag passes, so be it.

    Comment by Buddy D — January 3, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

  6. Interesting. I have performed Messiah on MANY occasions (numbering at least 20) and used to find it a very moving experience that the entire audience stood. I now find that it is very disruptive and halts the flow of the music. Not only is the magnificent introduction to the movement often drowned out by the noise of an audience rising, the final bars of the preceding tenor aria are often ruined by the shuffling of people in their seats waiting to stand. I am due to conduct a performance in the next few weeks – there will be an explanation in the audience’s program that I do NOT wish them to stand; giving the reasons above. I trust that the musical flow or the whole work will be restored. Besides, current thinking is that King George II just needed to use the lavatory…

    Comment by Mark J — March 23, 2011 @ 8:07 pm

    • Let us know how that goes. I wonder if there are a few out there who have already made a religion out of standing, and will not abide by your request. I hope not, but…

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — March 23, 2011 @ 9:33 pm

  7. It is absolutely un-American to stand. Why are we still honoring the grandfather of George III? Read the Declaration of Independence. Americans have repudiated monarchy. Standing has NOTHING to do with religion, only serfdom.

    Comment by Kris Cooper — April 24, 2011 @ 12:39 pm

    • “Why are we still honoring the grandfather of George III?”

      Huh? Who says we’re honouring the grandfather of George III? When I stand, it’s in honour of the King of Kings!!! Hallelujah!!!

      Comment by mwlahn — December 8, 2011 @ 8:15 am

      • Hi Murray. Years ago I attended a large church — just a few blocks from where you live — and the pastor referred to “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” as “the national anthem of the church.” Whether or not you agree with that designation, I like the idea of a church having a special anthem, so to speak, and the Hallelujah Chorus certainly would be a nominee, were it not for the technical complexity of singing it.

        Hey, maybe that’s a good reason for standing, out of respect for the choir and orchestra!

        Okay, seriously, I like your reason, and I think that is uppermost in the minds of many as they are standing. A modern worship equivalent would be Revelation Song. You can’t stay seated for that one. Or Majesty. Or How Great is Our God.

        Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 8, 2011 @ 10:17 am

      • Amen. Hallelujah is not about any earthly monarch, it is about the Lord of Lord’s, and King of Kings. I will always stand for HIM. Too bad that some people get the intent wrong. Jesus is Lord. Remain seated if you like…that’s your choice. Mine is to make a slight disturbance by standing and remain standing during the singing of this incredible anthem written about Jesus Christ.

        Comment by Frank Gorsline — November 29, 2014 @ 11:59 am

      • With all due respect to and much appreciation for performers in pursuit of performance excellence, historians seeking the truth, politicos pointing out advances from monarchy, music lovers desiring the ultimate performance free of distractions and others, including those just wanting to enjoy the Chorus …

        I’m with those who stand in order to honor and worship our Father in Heaven, our God and Creator, the One who has our names written on the palms of His hands, to whom be the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen! :-)

        Comment by Gary Y — December 13, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

      • Indeed! It is to honor the King Of Kings, Jesus Christ.

        Comment by Judy P. — December 13, 2015 @ 3:45 pm

      • I googled this question and arrived at this forum just now. I’ll be going to The Messiah in the Sydney (Australia) Town Hall this evening and I intend to stand to honour my King Jesus. I’ll let you know whether anyone else does – I’ll be a bit sad for them if they don’t, but it wouldn’t bother me to stand alone.

        Comment by melgra70 — December 18, 2015 @ 5:44 pm

  8. I strongly feel that we should still be standing. I find that the ignorance of people and history is clearly shown by those who remain seated. Take a stance and STAND for a change. Why not?

    Comment by Tammy Rdz — December 1, 2011 @ 10:03 pm

  9. I too, have performed the Messiah on many occasions. There is nothing to say that we have to stand while the Hallelujah Chorus is sung, but there is nothing that says we have to say when our team scores a touchdown either, but we do. Not because we have to, but it adds to the excitement of the “performance.” Those who don’t want to get excited or show any signs of emotion can sit and go home dulled by the performance.

    Comment by Wes B. — December 4, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

  10. I was told as a youngster that this was sort of the national anthem of music. We always stood. Went to Boston Pops Christmas concert today and no one stood. Interesting.

    Comment by Marsha BR — December 8, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

    • Was today’s concert actually in Boston? Given the sense of history and tradition there, that’s really surprising. (Okay, so nothing is surprising anymore, right?)

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 8, 2011 @ 10:39 pm

  11. Well,I just, (Dec 10th 2011) attended a performance at The Royal Festival Hall London of Messiah.
    The WHOLE audience(about 3,000) stood for the Hallelujah Chorus.I don’t know why the tradition started,but really it doesn’t bother me.Like another poster here I find it a fitting tribute to the genius of Handel,and because the chorus is such a moving piece of work.
    I think Handel might be astounded to learn that nearly 300 years after it’s first performance (in Dublin in 1741) Messiah was still being given,and was just as popular as ever.
    It was also nice to think (during the concert) that Handel was not more than half a mile away in his tomb in Westminster Abbey.

    Comment by Gordon — December 11, 2011 @ 4:40 pm

  12. Here in Nigeria, tis alwys a diff. mood entirely wen it’s rendered wif d Congregation standin. Dis Traditon shudnt b discarded as it hlps transcend 1to a higher level of worship

    Comment by Ephraim Ekpo — December 23, 2011 @ 8:46 pm

  13. To the King of Kings celebrated by Handel’s majestic and fitting work—-of course we should stand.

    Comment by Ed Goodwin — November 25, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

  14. I agree. When you are moved by a performance…what better way to show it than standing. I love tradition.

    Comment by Doris — December 1, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

  15. I will (if I am able) stand I was at a concert in which the Hallelujah was performed and the audience stood up and
    gave its approval AMEN

    Comment by alfred smith — December 15, 2012 @ 10:44 am

  16. Being a fan of audience traditions, I thought it rather exciting when everyone stood for the Hallelujah chorus at the recital of the Messiah that I went to see last night in Melbourne. It was the first time I became aware of such a tradition, and I feel sad that it is not more well known. I think it made the music feel more alive and glorious that everyone was standing up to listen (though in this case the orchestra remained seated) – about two thousand people and the soloists facing the chorus is an amazing sight. I also thought that somehow it was easier to listen standing up, just as it is easier to sing standing up. I do not think belief in God or regard for monarchy is *necessary* to continue the tradition, because it can be done for its own sake. Every year at the very end to the BBC Proms the audience begins to sing Auld Lang Syne of its own accord – imagine if the very first person years ago did not begin singing it, or if nobody else joined in, there would now, at the end of that program, be no real sense of community or togetherness anymore. These traditions bring people together, so they are as one, and that is a sense of community that we need more of in this day and age.

    Comment by Mina — December 16, 2012 @ 6:31 pm

  17. Tradition and respect are two wonderful things which sadly are being diluted in todays world. I was at a performance of The Messiah last night when only half the audience stood. Looking at the faces after the performance you could see who had been moved by the majesty and revelation of that chorus. The remainder I am sure will celebrate Christmas by saying Bah Humbug. Therein lies a lot of the problems we face in the world today.Relax and immerse yourselves in the message and spirit of the music, and remember without tradition and respect we have nothing.

    Comment by Murray — December 21, 2012 @ 5:39 am

  18. What is wrong with tradition and showing respect. Too many young people seem to tear down these things their parents and grandparents respected in order to do what, I wonder. They are very shallow and empty people who seem to wish to create a void with nothing constructive or positive with which to fill that void, unless you call partying, getting hammered, indulging in meaningless sex and drug abuse constructive.

    I honour who or what I personally believe ought to be honoured whether it be the Hallelujah Chorus or a lady entering a room. I stand because I would like to be seen as a gentleman!

    Comment by John Davidson — December 23, 2012 @ 12:12 am

  19. Why not, it’s such a long peice it’s good to stretch the legs!

    Comment by Slates — December 23, 2012 @ 3:08 am

    • Hi Slates.

      When King George II allegedly stood at the first Covent Garden performance of the Messiah, various pundits of the day tried to explain ‘Why?’

      They came up with about four reasonable explanations, one of which was indeed to ‘stretch his legs’. I think that’s called ‘Royal Cramp’ below the neck. Not to be confused with the ‘above the neck’ variant from which they also regularly suffer!

      Comment by John Davidson — December 23, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

  20. I’m not normally a musical person. But last year I joined a choir at our local church to learn, rehearse and sing the Hallelujah Chorus at the Christmas Day (and eve) services. I LOVED IT!!! Fortunately I was surrounded by plenty of competent singers, so I could belt out my part without fear of ruining the performance for others. It was awesome!!! I’ve never enjoyed worship so much. I sang my lungs out. The words are straight from Revelation and are such a wonderful declaration of Jesus victory and Kingship. And I honestly think the music is divinely inspired.

    I am so looking forward to getting to heaven and, if they’ll let me, to sneak into the bass section with the angels and sing: “Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth! The kingdom of this earth is become the Kingdom of our Lord! And He shall reign for ever and ever!”

    I will most definitely be STANDING; arms raised, worshipping with all my heart at the top of my lungs!

    Comment by Ian — January 26, 2013 @ 2:20 am

    • Amen! I can’t wait either! It’s coming soon!

      Comment by Wendy — January 26, 2013 @ 11:41 am

  21. I stand for one simple reason – Hallelujah is simply the best single piece of music ever composed, in any genre. It is beyond music, and has a transformational power that nothing else does. Rarely do we get to experience perfection – this composition is one of those times, whatever George II did.

    Comment by David Persons — March 23, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

    • David, you need to attend more concerts of the masterworks, and then you probably wouldn’t think this is the most beautiful piece of music ever composed.

      Comment by Charo — December 14, 2015 @ 4:30 am

  22. Cynthia, I’m glad to find someone who would stand with me. Today, on Easter mass in our church, the choir began the Hallelujah Chorus and I immediately stood as I have done all my life. I realized immediately no one else in the whole church stood but I continued standing until the end.

    Comment by Mary — April 1, 2013 @ 12:41 am

  23. Yes,I think the tradition of Stading up while singing the Halleluyah Chorus should continue because it makes the song unique from all other songs, it also registers a kind of feeling that is unexplainable.

    Comment by Ebe Samson Oladosu — August 23, 2013 @ 10:52 am

  24. […] Well, I suppose this is not something as serious as what we shared during last Friday’s devotion night: “堅持真理絕不妥協; 與真理無關之事絕不強硬”…  Apparently there have been discussions about standing vs sitting too, especially in free America: https://paulwilkinson.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/hallelujah-chorus-should-audiences-still-stand/ […]

    Pingback by What’s important? | thoughts, random or not — September 17, 2013 @ 2:31 am

  25. Every Christmas season the music department of a university here in Manila conducts an outreach program with a performance of Handel’s Messiah. People appreciate the complexity not just of the “Hallelujah” but of the other parts as well. Of course, most of them understand the lyrics of the songs, and have a vague idea of how “Messiah” progresses from prophecy to fulfillment and then prophecy again. The performance always ends with the Hallelujah, and by then the audience have become so worked up that it’s just natural to stand, all the way to the encore.

    Comment by karl — October 25, 2013 @ 3:57 am

  26. As long as I am still able, I will stand.

    Comment by T Jordan — December 9, 2013 @ 10:04 am

  27. Ha ha ha. Is all I have to say. Just came from the full performance in one of the great acoustical halls. Disney in la. The standing sheep seriously degraded the sound. I guess I did not know I was going to church, or the king’s court!

    Comment by Bob — December 23, 2013 @ 2:05 am

    • I don’t normally respond to the comments here, but out of all the ones posted here over three years, this one really takes the cake. “Standing Sheep”? How about “informed concert-goers”?

      I suppose the “standing sheep” at the seventh inning of a baseball game also block your view of the field.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 23, 2013 @ 8:46 am

  28. […] Christmas concert and we were asked by our choir director to tell our parents and guests in the audience to stand when the opening chords were struck on the piano.  We were told that this has been a tradition […]

    Pingback by Greetings from a desert island: Songs to last a lifetime | After the kids leave — February 17, 2014 @ 12:03 am

  29. Hobart Tasmania just had it’s first abridged sing along Messiah under conductor Richard Gill and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra where people could pay to join the choir and sing, sitting in the front rows of the auditorium. In the performance Richard banned the choir from standing during the Hallelujah Chorus because of the cacophony of banging of the theatre seats when the choir rose to sing. He got us to demonstrate to the audience in the performance by standing, and said “I rest my case!” Although the audience were free to stand if they wished, no one that I could see seemed to….Bobby B

    Comment by Bob Burgess — May 11, 2014 @ 4:23 am

  30. There are many traditions that unfortunately have gone by the wayside as we become more and more informal. The Messiah stirs the heart and the emotions for many different reasons unique to oneself and the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus cannot help but uplift the soul. Frequently we stand at the conclusion of an exceptional performance; not because we have to, but to recognize something exceptional. I never had a good singing voice, but sang in choirs that performed the Messiah. I still can ‘hear’ the bass part and never cease to feel the emotion in the music and the words being sung. Standing is a tradition that does not need explanation, but to avoid confusion, it would be appreciated if an announcement would be made within the program or at the start of the performance.

    Thank you.

    Comment by Robert Newton — November 20, 2014 @ 10:48 am

  31. “I find that the ignorance of people and history is clearly shown by those who remain seated.”
    Tammy Rdz, what history are you referring to? Do you do the same during the performance of Vivaldi’s “Gloria” or any music that contains “Hallelujah”? If not, why? Do you feel those music to be inferior ? Maybe you are ignorant of the top article that explains the history of standing during “Hallelujah” chorus. Everyone did it because King George II started it. Was a monarch in attendance? Otherwise, the proper protocol is to remain seated until the end of the performance.

    The same questions go to everyone here. I get the impression that most if not all are not regulars of classical music concerts, which “Messiah” is BTW. It shows in how much you all overrate the “Hallelujah” chorus. IMO, it’s not the single most stirring/uplifting/majestic piece in the oratorio. If any of you have actually attended or performed the entire oratorio (that includes Parts 2 & 3), not just the X’mas version, you will find other songs that affect the soul as much as, if not more than, the “Hallelujah” chorus. Unless you truly not into classical music as a whole, then the “Hallelujah” chorus becomes the fashionable choice since everyone else says so. For me, I feel likewise towards “For Unto Us A Child Is Born” and “Amen” (from Part 3). IMO, the “Amen” chorus is more stirring/uplifting/majestic than the “Hallelujah” chorus. It’s vocal arrangement and counterpoint far richer and complex, makes the “Hallelujah” chorus seem simple by comparison.

    I’d rather stand for the “Amen” chorus because it’s the final piece of the entire oratorio. As for the “Hallelujah” chorus, I stand or remain seated depending on the circumstances. As an fan of classical music and regular concert attendee, I find it disrespectful to stand in the middle of a performance.

    Comment by TTn — November 26, 2014 @ 4:34 pm

    • I know it’s low-key, but I can’t think of Messiah without thinking of “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth.” I know that doesn’t address your comment directly, but yours was the first time in all the comment history here that anyone mentioned anything about the rest of Handel’s work.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — November 26, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

    • I am in total agreement with you. Those who find this the most moving piece of music ever are definitely not attendees at concerts of sacred masterworks or any other classical music/masterworks. I too find Worthy Is the Lamb much more inspiring. That being said, I am against standing during any part of a performance, both as a performer and as an audience member. It has nothing to do with not respecting tradition. It’s just plain disruptive in the middle of a performance.

      Comment by Charo — December 14, 2015 @ 4:26 am

  32. I only recently observed this tradition when the Hallelujah Chorus was performed at the Purdue Christmas Show in West Lafayette, Indiana. Virtually the entire audience of 5,000 stood. Prior to this I was not aware of the tradition, or at least didn’t notice it. Now that I have noticed it, I think it is wonderful. Standing for the most beautiful anthem honoring our Messiah is a tradition worth observing.

    Comment by independenttexan — December 9, 2014 @ 8:56 pm

  33. Back in the day when the American educational system still worked, we learned in grammar school music class that one stood for the Hallelujah Chorus, supposedly because King George did. This would have been along about 5th grade. This was in an ordinary public grammar school of about 500 kids for four grades in a podunk town of about 2500 people. This one school had three full-time music teaches, one for all students, one for the concert band who also gave free instrument lessons to all members of the band as part of the curriculum, and one for the school chorus and who was also the music director for the school district.

    Comment by Desper Rado — December 26, 2014 @ 5:09 am

  34. For Errol Garner’s organ recital I stood and applauded but for Handel and the Chorus, I stand throughout as respect for the King of Kings and the composer whom I still feel was
    divinely guided in his composition – it is that good – 93 y o amateur musician and professional ex-fighter pilot … James

    Comment by James Nolan — February 1, 2015 @ 8:35 pm

  35. There is a legend that Queen Victoria arrived late to a concert so everyone had to stand at the moment she appeared in her box. Thank goodness no one carried on that tradition. Handle did write some beautiful music. Other composers, such as Charpentier, Purcell, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Bach, have written choral pieces as well as hymns that to me are more beautiful and meaningful. However, I do not stand when these are sung.

    Comment by Judith Anne Meeks — April 6, 2015 @ 7:49 pm

  36. I love tradition and feel it is good to hold on to respectful traditions in times of rapid change that are a good example for humans. Just as I kneel in Church out of respect for the believed presence of Christ, I stand for a chorus honoring the King of Kings. Some sources believe there is actually no evidence that King George II actually was there in the first place, but a nice thought if he was.

    Comment by Darryl — June 24, 2015 @ 3:23 am

  37. No

    Comment by Kit — July 22, 2015 @ 3:21 pm

  38. I can’t say if I would stand or sit until I actually found myself in the situation. I do see the value in the tradition showing the respect to the king of kings which is referred to during the piece of music. I do think we should stand during that part of the messiah as tradition.

    Comment by Andrew Silbernagel — December 1, 2015 @ 9:38 pm

  39. Attending a presentation by Sydney Philharmonic Choir in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House last night the standing of the entire packed house for the Hallelujah to me, was a wonderful high point of community, respect, solidarity, heritage, reverence, honour and grandeur combined. A first time Messiah attender from N America seated beside me stood, obviously moved.
    The first time I ever experienced a live performance (in the Sydney Town Hall) I was quite overwhelmed and moved to tears as we stood, not then knowing the tradition but finding standing so totally appropriate!

    Re the monarch – during the coronation ritual the new monarch receives the orb, a jewel encrusted gold sphere surmounted by a cross acknowledging the Christ of the cross as the One who reigns supreme as King of all kings and Lord of all lords. Despite reported flaws, common to all, I would not be at all surprised if George II stood to acknowledge Jesus Christ as his King. I do.

    Comment by Allan — December 3, 2015 @ 4:48 pm

  40. Stand. In honor of who the song is about.

    Comment by Ed Blair — December 6, 2015 @ 6:22 pm

  41. As a 7th grader I sang the Hallelujah Chorus before which my mother cautioned me that the audience would stand. I asked if she was sure everyone would know to do that. She assured me they would and she was right. We children sang our hearts out. The words were meaningful and moving to us then as they are now at age 74. The standing audience validated the magnificence of the message and that validation is no less important today.Those who cite other “more beautifully” written pieces cited musicality, not message. The message of the chorus, the “King of Kings, Lord of Lords” transcends the criteria that scoffers might use to put this piece on an inferior playing field. The piece is worthy of the tradition to stand even at the risk of a slight interruption in the flow. The flow of the soul is of greater importance. I believe now that places where this magnificent music is performed people will do as they are taught. If the venue and the conductor, or music director has not taught people to stand to honor our “King of Kings” it will not happen. Shame on them. One correction: the words are taken from Isaiah, not Revelation.

    Comment by Helen Hoover — December 7, 2015 @ 12:10 am

  42. No because it obscures the performance, both aurally and visually, for people further behind in the audience. Standing then becomes an inconsiderate action.

    Comment by Bob Fosbury — December 7, 2015 @ 3:34 am

  43. Also permissible to scowl at or bad-eye those not standing, and vice-versa. In Dublin, where messiah was first performed, it’s considered bad form to stand, out of Republican sympathies, I suppose.

    Comment by Fastcat — December 8, 2015 @ 4:17 pm

  44. See Revelation 19:16 for the specific reference to “King of kings and Lord of lords” and Revelation 19:1-6 for multiple “Hallelujah” references.
    “For unto us a child is born” is from the prophecy of Isaiah.

    Comment by Allan — December 8, 2015 @ 11:58 pm

  45. I’m proud that my son was a freshman in the Santa Monica High School chorus that performed this song last night – enjoy! https://vimeo.com/148756369

    Comment by Lane Soelberg — December 12, 2015 @ 11:24 pm

    • Thank You … marvellous
      wbr

      Comment by Bruce Ramsay — December 25, 2016 @ 1:44 pm

      • Just watched it again. Thanks. Truly marvellous.

        And I’m sure that religion was only a small part of the joy that was going on in that chorus.

        I am not devoted to any structured religion, yet I find this an awe inspiring piece of music. Yes. I stood for it, alone in the house, the second time around.

        wbr

        Comment by Bruce Ramsay — December 25, 2016 @ 2:18 pm

  46. Most traditions have value. They provide continuity, expectation, shared experience, sometimes culture, and perhaps even joy. Ways of showing respect are also generally traditions. I see an anti-tradition mindset growing that destroys without replacing. We all lose something valuable when traditions are erased leaving only sameness.

    Comment by David — December 12, 2015 @ 11:35 pm

    • Yes. Definitely.
      wbr

      Comment by Bruce Ramsay — December 25, 2016 @ 1:45 pm

  47. December, 2015:
    I really appreciate all the comments that keep coming here all these years later. (Thank you, Google!) Opinions are mixed. Hopefully concert organizers are clear before the performance starts as to what is expected.
    Paul/Thinking Out Loud

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 13, 2015 @ 2:00 pm

    • I performed this piece last night in a holiday concert of both religious and non-religious music. At the end of the concert, before we started the Halleluiah Chorus, the director asked, in fact urged, the audience to stand. Many of the attendees were Jewish and recognize this music as a sacred masterwork. They respect it as they would any other composition of its caliber. However, since they do not believe that Christ is the Messiah, why should they be required to stand? I am a huge traditionalist, but do not like this tradition. I find it very disruptive both as a performer and an observer. I can understand that people wish to adhere to this practice, but do not agree that it should be “required” and that if you don’t stand, you are somehow being disrespectful.

      Comment by Charo — December 14, 2015 @ 4:18 am

  48. I attended a Christmas carol concert at the Albert Hall last night. The orchestra played the hallelujah chorus and looking around I, along with about a dozen others stood. The rest, sadly, remained seated. Ignorance is no excuse to observe the protocol

    Comment by Pat Brooks — December 16, 2015 @ 5:33 am

  49. I haven’t the vaguest idea why Americans think this appropriate or traditional. Royal protocol IN THE TIME of George II was that when the King stood, all others KNELT. Thus, kneeling, not standing, would be the appropriate response. And for those who equate this as different from “liturgical music”, The Messiah is an EASTER MASS, not entertainment, and thus it could be argued it should only be performed in a church which hass Mass as a form of worship, on Easter Sunday.

    Comment by HH — December 17, 2015 @ 10:21 pm

  50. Well, I’m just home from the Messiah performance in the Sydney (Australia) Town Hall; I was waiting for the moment and would have stood alone if necessary. Even before the first notes of the intro to the Hallelujah Chorus, several people seated in front of me were already “at the ready” and the moment the intro started, the whole audience was on its feet – well done, Sydney! Of course, I couldn’t see absolutely everyone, but it was a resounding affirmation; followed by thunderous applause, even though the event was being recorded and we were asked to keep applause to the end. The performance received a standing ovation. (The idea of kneeling is interesting but no way would it be practical in a concert hall setting with row upon row of seats close together.)

    Comment by melgra70 — December 19, 2015 @ 6:30 am

  51. He could have stood because his legs were cramping after sitting so long. Or perhaps he needed to visit the Royal Loo.

    Comment by LadyMaryCrawleyTalbot — December 25, 2015 @ 11:38 am

  52. How can one remain seated??!!! Makes me want to jump to my feet, applaud and praise the Lord out loud! It is a wonderful tradition.

    Comment by Shirley — November 7, 2016 @ 1:18 pm

  53. As far back as i can remember the Pastor of our church would always stand after the first couple of notes of the Hallelujah Chorus and would motion for the congregation to stand. I always thought it was
    honoring to the Lord to stand in His holy presence. Yes there are songs from Handel’s Messiah that are sung on Resurrection Sunday (Easter) as well as songs sung at Christmas, Standing for the
    Hallelujah Chorus or any other song that hits me at the core of my soul will have me standing on my feet and it will be only for the glory of God. Hallelujah is the highest praise and the grand finale of
    Handel’s Messiah is the last song, “Worthy is the Lamb” with the seven fold Amen Chorus. To start off Christmas, why not listen to the full Christmas rendition of Handel’s Messiah?

    Comment by Betty — November 21, 2016 @ 11:14 am

    • Each year in the Sydney Town Hall, the massed church choir performs The Messiah on the Saturday and Sunday before Christmas. I still believe this is a world standard performance. Last year I was there for the first time in about 15 years and I asked myself this question. My answer was: I don’t care if no-one else stands, but I will. As the introductory bars for the great Chorus began, I wasn’t the first to my feet – the entire audience rose as one!! Just goes to show you, if we don’t praise Him, even the stones will cry out!!

      Comment by Imelda Gilmore — November 21, 2016 @ 4:19 pm

  54. At a concert tonight at the Hong Kong City Hall, with over 1,500 in the audience, when the chorus sang the Hallelujah, I could see only myself and my husband standing (subsequently I was told 6 people stood up). The audience should be educated as to this tradition so they could also share the experience and be touched by the glorification to the Messiah with the soul moving music. It is the loss of the rest of the audience. I learned to stand from my first Messiah performance at 15. The sound and sight of everyone standing in the audience in uniform – as if worshipping together. is overwhelming. Let’s revive the tradition.

    Comment by EDITH SHIH — December 3, 2016 @ 10:27 am

    • Edith, I fully agree with you. Good traditions should never die out. Each generation should teach the next generation. If we can stand when the President or King enters the room, we certainly
      can stand to honor the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords
      Betty R

      Comment by Betty — December 3, 2016 @ 2:10 pm

      • The majestic music honouring the King of the Universe calls forth a response. I don’t stand because it’s tradition: I stand because that’s my response.

        Comment by melgra70 — December 3, 2016 @ 3:06 pm

      • Certainly true, many in my generation stood to honor our King before we knew the tradition of it all. The main point of this conversation to acknowledge the King of kings because He is worthy of
        all honor, glory and praise and we who love Him don’t wait until December to do this.

        Comment by Betty — December 4, 2016 @ 12:22 am

  55. I was just at a performance of the entire oratorio, held in a concert hall and performed by secular musical groups. The conductor specifically asked the audience not to stand during the Hallelujah chorus, adding that in his interpretation, the chorus would start very quietly. In spite of his request, a large portion of the audience rumbled to their feet, drowning out the music and blocking the view of those who chose to respect the conductor’s wishes. The people who stood were not being devout, they were being disrespectful of the conductor and inconsiderate of other audience members who came for the music, not a religious experience. Their actions remind me of rhe parable of the Pharisee in the temple (Luke 18) who stands ostentatiously and brags of his righteousness, compared to the meek manner of the humble tax collector. If you listen to the entire Messiah oratorio, you will find a similar message in the tenor’s first aria.

    Perhaps those who feel compelled to stand for religious reasons could, instead, simply close their eyes, bow their heads, and give silent thanks and praise to the creator, who, as Jesus says, will certainly receive their prayer.

    Comment by Julie Blais — December 11, 2016 @ 10:51 am

    • I don’t usually weigh in on the many comments here, but this one particularly infuriated me because the issue had been dealt with at the beginning. While I don’t take sides on this issue, this case is different as the audience had been given not only instructions, but the reasoning behind the instructions. So where does that leave us?

      • They all had short memories
      • They failed to differentiate between the start of the work and the piece in question. So in remaining seated during Comfort Ye My People, they felt they had fulfilled the request
      • They weren’t listening at all at the beginning
      • Some compelling “religious” (as you called it) reason to override the conductor’s request

      The last one is interesting because, at the other end of the Christian music spectrum, with modern worship, we do seem to have a generation of people who feel they must stand for every single worship song. I can remember song leaders telling the congregation to “remain seated” for certain hymns and they would. Today, in some churches this is rare. People seem to have an imaginary chapter and verse which compels them to stand.

      But this wasn’t a song that invited audience participation. To stand for this one selection would be to stand for the entire performance.

      Nor is Messiah a work that attracts the aforementioned modern worship audience. Today with just about any classical piece, a younger audience needs some direction ahead of time i.e. “This is a suite, it has three parts, please hold your applause until the full conclusion.” But this audience was given direction and chose to completely ignore it.

      You got me. Complete mystery, that one.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 11, 2016 @ 1:43 pm

    • When this conversation started off it was not to be judgmental of anyone’s way of worship to our Heavenly Father. Of course the Lord hears silent prayers. He also knows the motives and intentions of the heart and that is what He judges.

      Recently a Theatre had a Christmas Musical and the audience was very attentive but soon as the Hallelujah Chorus was played so many people start leaving. This was right before intermission. Perhaps some people wanted to be first in line for refreshments or maybe some wanted to be first in line to use the restrooms, who knows? This could have been a disruption for the people around them and for others it may have seemed to be disrespectful or even offensive but this is what freedom is all about. Thank God, we have the right to choose.

      Comment by Betty — December 11, 2016 @ 1:50 pm

      • Betty, you may be describing something quite different from what Julie is describing. Yours sounds more like a community concert or outreach event, whereas Julie’s sounds more like a paid concert in a professional-quality concert hall.

        I think that in Julie’s case, common etiquette means preferring others, respecting the conductor’s instructions, etc., and that doesn’t include “the right to choose.” If we have the right to choose, then I have the right to sing along during the entire work, and I need to warn you, I will alternate between the melody and the bass part. Do you want to be sitting in the row ahead of me? Probably not.

        The Hallelujah Chorus is for many the pinnacle of the entire work and it stirs many emotions and reactions, but needing to use the restroom is not one of them.

        Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 11, 2016 @ 2:01 pm

      • This was in the same kind of Concert Hall, everyone there paid for a ticket. Most Symphony goers know the protocol. There are certain pieces that are played and people cannot be taken to their
        seats until the entire piece is over. The ushers have control of taking people to their seats but they do not have control of them leaving even if a piece is being played. In this case the conductor
        asked people to stand for the Hallelujah Chorus, some did, some didn’t and some left. In your case if you would of had the freedom to sing then I would have the freedom to ask for my
        money back. Maybe it would have been granted and maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe because this was a Christmas Pops Concert and not the “Messiah” many people had no clue or concept.

        Comment by Betty — December 11, 2016 @ 2:37 pm

  56. I am glad to see so many of you respond in a positive way to standing for the Hallelujah Chorus. I have been in several choirs and had the privilege to sing this wonderful Chorus in honor of my God and Savior. Every time I hear it, I am moved to tears and well up with emotion. I would not hesitate to stand even if I were to stand alone. This is a tradition of reverence and reminder for me. It doesn’t matter what the King George’s reason was…I will continue to uphold this tradition in a world where too many are willing to cast aside the very foundation and traditions that are important to humanity and Christian values.

    Comment by Douglas Haring — December 14, 2016 @ 6:34 pm

    • Thank you Doug, Hallelujah is the highest praise and we that love Him will continue to praise His name anywhere. The Lord loves us no matter what position, however i prefer standing and I hope the
      generations after will too.

      Comment by Betty — December 15, 2016 @ 12:13 pm

  57. Christians should be allowed to stand during the Hallelujah Chorus and not be told to sit down or poked in the back and told to leave. I thought we had the right to our beliefs in this country. (England) Or does that exclude Christianity?

    Comment by Beverley — December 16, 2016 @ 5:26 pm

  58. “Nothing is stronger than tradition”
    anon.

    Comment by Howard Hill — December 16, 2016 @ 10:30 pm

  59. During the Christmas Concert each year the Richmond (VA) Symphony and Chorus perform the Hallelujah Chorus as the ending piece. Everyone stands and we are all so moved the applause and “Bravos” are deafening at the conclusion. What a heavenly inspired work. It never ceases to awe me.

    Comment by John — December 18, 2016 @ 8:22 am

    • Praise the Lord! Isn’t it something that we are having conversation about sitting and standing for the King of King and Lord of Lords? We must also remember that one day every knee will bow and
      every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. This is a command and there are no options here.

      Comment by Betty — December 18, 2016 @ 6:52 pm

  60. I am a pragmatic non-believer. I always rise for the Hallelujah Chorus as an acknowledgment to the faithful. The piece is part of a deep holiday tradition and deserves the respect of listeners rising.

    Comment by elroyjones — December 19, 2016 @ 2:55 pm

    • Thanks for offering a different perspective. I hope someday you can resolve anything that might be holding you back from crossing the line of faith.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 19, 2016 @ 2:58 pm

    • Right on, dude.

      wbr

      Comment by Bruce Ramsay — December 25, 2016 @ 2:51 pm

    • ^This. It is a tradition of over two hundred years standing, connecting one with what one’s ancestors have done (as did my fourth generation American great-great-great-great-great-grandfather who was 36 in Massachusetts when the Messiah premiered in London in 1742 with George II in attendance and who was 63 by its first performance in New York around 1770 apparently.) It is a marvelous piece of music by great composer, so it is a cultural acknowledgement of his greatness that audiences into the third century still are standing. (It needn’t be decided that the Hallelujah Chorus is the “greatest” thing ever written.) For those overcome with religious devotion in its spiritual references, it doesn’t hurt the rest of us to stand in respect for their sensibilities without any implications of endorsement of the veracity of their beliefs.

      Comment by Caellin — December 27, 2016 @ 2:31 am

  61. God bless you with great joy in this holy season.

    Comment by melgra70 — December 19, 2016 @ 3:29 pm

    • The Lord loves you and invites you to join His family anytime. Please post any comments or questions you may have concerning your salvation.

      Comment by Betty — December 19, 2016 @ 3:50 pm


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