Monday, April 1, 2013

I've performed the "Hallelujah" chorus with several choirs, singing alto at times and soprano at other times. But I hadn't sung it in years--probably not since I joined my current church in 1979.

Then our small amateur choir of four sopranos, three altos, three tenors, and four basses sang it at two services yesterday. Our first performance was far from perfect, but we got through it. While still not perfect, the second was better, especially since we had assistance from two violins and a couple of former choir members who had sung it recently. And it did have the joyful feel and message that are really the point.

Although the words and the music are familiar, it's surprising how little people really know about this chorus. Take the name, for example. Almost everyone calls it the "Hallelujah Chorus," but technically it is simply a chorus titled "Hallelujah."

It isn't even an Easter chorus. It is in Part II of The Messiah, an oratorio by G.F. Handel. Part II covers not only Christ's death and resurrection but also his ascension, his reception in heaven, the preaching of the Gospel, and the world's rejection of that Gospel. Part II culminates in the "Hallelujah" chorus, which rejoices in the knowledge that God is in control. As you read the words, however, you will notice that they talk about God's kingship, not Christ's resurrection.
Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, Hallelujah!

Some people would also be surprised to learn that the "Hallelujah" chorus is not the last song in The Messiah. It is followed by three airs, two recitatives, a duet, and three more choruses. These come in Part III, which celebrates God's final judgment and victory over death.

But in spite of all that, the "Hallelujah" chorus is perfect for Easter. If God were not King of Kings and Lord of Lords, there would have been no resurrection and we would be lost in our sins. We may not fully experience the victory until the times celebrated in Part III of The Messiah, but the battle was won when Christ rose from the dead.


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