Thursday, December 08, 2011

Hallelujah Chorus

Countdown to Christmas 17 days

It will come as no surprise that I was in Choir in High School. All four years (okay, all five if you count that last year I had to go back, let's not go there right now). Though there were rules about separation of church and state, our choir director got around all those by claiming significant historical musical traditions and had us sing all sorts of religious music for the "winter concert formerly known as Christmas.

There were two big showstopping numbers the choir performed every year. The Hallelujah Chorus and Silent Night. You know, those songs with significant historical musical traditions and no religious overtones. The finale was always Silent Night performed acapella. Our conductor wore a black suit with a white shirt and stood in front of the choir. As we sang, the lights slowly dimmed and our conductor would adjust his suit jacket to reveal more of his white shirt cuffs so we could see his hands. As the lights dimmed, a large stylized star lit with Christmas lights would slowly lower from the ceiling. (I remember one year the wire broke and it was only held aloft by the extension cord powering the lights. Try to not laugh while you watch the star of Bethlehem jiggle its way into place. But you see, there is no religious overtones there. It was just us, singing a song of significant historical musical traditions, that's all.

My favorite song to sing came before Silent Night. It was the BIG FINALE (Silent Night was apparently the non-religious contemplative song to send you on your way). For the Hallelujah Chorus all the music department came together, Band, Orchestra and Choir. Choir alumni were also encouraged to come onstage and join in.

The song is a KILLER. Every section is stretched to it's limit, the sopranos have to reach the end of their range and so do the tenors. The Altos and basses must get as low as they can. For months we practiced and then THE night arrives. The song takes on a life of its own running wild and fast. With orchestra and band added in its an unwieldy beast of a song. There will be no surprises that I sang tenor. And there are two moments in the middle where we are required to reach the highest note of the year and all you do is pray your voice won't crack. If you ever hear it live, you'll know right where this is, the choir usually gets just little quieter as those who know they won't make it just drop off. It doesn't matter, I still love it.

1 comment:

A Lewis said...

Christmas ALWAYS reminds me of huge musical concerts, long nights of practice, and performances with ties and suits on.