In response to my previous post, my friend and former student Susan Jaeger offers the following thoughtful take on the Hallelujah Chorus during Advent and Christmas:
I am aware that the Hallelujah Chorus is not part of the Advent/Christmas section of Messiah (though most performances of Messiah that I have heard during Advent have included the entire work). What I appreciated about the video clip [of the flash mob in Canada singing the Hallelujah Chorus] was that, in the midst of the peak time for pre-Christmas shopping madness, the juxtaposition of the Hallelujah Chorus with all the shopping-mall corporate logos made me think of something Tom Wright might say: if Jesus is Lord, then Mammon is not.
I am not so naive as to assume that the same thought was in the minds of all the singers. Obviously it is impossible to know what their various motivations might have been. It’s just that my own thoughts and motivations are muddled often enough that it is hard to judge others. I found it to be a lovely performance musically. People singing about Jesus as Lord, in the middle of the “Agora,” seemed to me to be a worthy confrontation with paganism, at least slightly akin to early Christianity.
Despite my strong reservations about the Hallelujah Chorus at this time of year (unless sung at its appropriate place in Messiah), including the fear that its powerful content indicated by Susan will be trivialized, I think she makes a very good point. Thank you, Susan.