Hallelujah Chorus

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Closing chorus of Part II of Messiah by George Frideric Handel
Hallelujah score 1741.jpg
The last page in Handel's manuscript
Key D major
Year 1741 (1741)
Text biblical
Vocal SATB choir

The Hallelujah Chorus is the final movement of the Messiah Part II by George Friedrich Handel. It was written in 1741 and received its debut performance in 1742 during Lent in Dublin, Ireland.[1] It has been called one of the most famous pieces of Baroque choral music and the most well known piece in Messiah.[2]


During the time Handel wrote Messiah, he barely ate anything despite his servants bringing him food as normal each day. One day, one of his servants entered Handel's room to find the composer in tears. When asked what was wrong, Handel held up the score to the Hallelujah Chorus and said, "I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself".[3] The Hallelujah Chorus along with the rest of Messiah was first performed in Dublin, Ireland in 1742.[1] Handel had a similar experience a year later at the London premiere where after the "Hallelujah Chorus" was performed, one of his assistants found him again in tears. Again in response to being questioned, he held up a copy of the score and said, "I thought I saw the face of God".[4]

The "Hallelujah Chorus" is predominately performed at Easter and Christmas. It is performed at Christmas because of an erroneous belief it is about the Nativity of Jesus when it was intended to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus and the Ascension of Jesus.[5]


Traditionally whenever the Hallelujah Chorus is performed, the audience will stand. This tradition is ascribed to the debut performance in London with King George II of Great Britain in attendance. It is reported that at the start of the Chorus, the King was so impressed that he stood up and remained standing until the end. As a result, everyone else stood as Royal protocol dictated that when the King stood, everyone else stood until the King did otherwise.[5][6][7][8] However another reason for the King standing up may have been that, as he was hard of hearing,[9] he thought it was a performance of the national anthem, "God Save the King".[10]

An alternative explanation as to why the tradition of standing for the "Hallelujah Chorus" came about was because of the mix of secular and sacred music in Messiah, the "Hallelujah Chorus" was the part of Messiah that caused people to stand as if were a hymn as hymns are often sung while standing.[11] George Augustus Henry Sala once said about it in 1859; "...at the first bar of the sublime "Hallelujah Chorus," the hearers all stand up, the singers in the orchestra seem to me like priests. In truth, I think that to hear an oratorio chastens and purifies the mind and that we go away from those great performances wiser and better men".[12] Earlier at the Handel Festival of 1857, a critic stated upon seeing a crowd of thousands stand when the "Hallelujah Chorus" was performed made it seem like "as if a nation were at prayers".[12] Irish critic George Bernard Shaw stated in a lecture to French audiences "... the audience stands up, as if in church, when the Hallelujah Chorus is being sung. It is the nearest sensation to the elevation of the Host known to English Protestants".[12] Often conductors who support the tradition will turn prior to the performance of the "Hallelujah Chorus" and cue the audience to stand.[13] While conductors who oppose it sometimes request patrons remain seated.[7] When the Hallelujah Chorus is performed around the world, it is usually always sung in English and not translated into the relevant vernaculars. However there has been a Hebrew language version performed.[14]

Outside Messiah[edit]

The "Hallelujah Chorus" has been used outside of Messiah performances. It has been used as a basis for sermons in church services. In 1944, as part of a sermon against Nazi Germany, the President of the Church of England's Church Missionary Society Max Warren stated: "We seek the perfect harmony of the Hallelujah Chorus, not the "sieg heil" of ten thousand marshalled throats".[15] In 2009, the BBC and the English National Opera created a project titled "Sing Hallelujah!" whereby 450 choirs throughout the United Kingdom would come together to perform the "Hallelujah Chorus".[16] In 2016, the American Mormon Tabernacle Choir did a similar project however they received recordings from worldwide to perform the "Hallelujah Chorus".[17] The tune has been adopted by British association football fans for football chants. In 2006, Newcastle United fans used the "Hallelujah Chorus" as a tribute to their former captain Alan Shearer.[18] In television, the "Hallelujah Chorus" has been used hyperbolically in comedy programmes whenever something positive occurs.[19] The tune has also been used in advertising campaigns.[20] The "Hallelujah Chorus" has been used independently by flash mobs.[21] In 2011, in the Republic of Ireland, national radio broadcaster RTÉ Radio 1 organised a flash mob including the "Hallelujah Chorus" as a finale for a week of music commemoration.[22]

The American professional wrestler Damien Sandow used the "Hallelujah Chorus" as his entrance music while wrestling for WWE,[23] as well as when wrestling as Aron Rex in Total Nonstop Action.[24]


  1. ^ a b "Handel's Messiah premieres in Dublin - Apr 13, 1742". History Channel. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  2. ^ "Handel - Messiah". Classic FM. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  3. ^ "Messiah and George Frideric Handel". Christianity.com. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  4. ^ Nettle, Daniel (2001). Strong Imagination: Madness, Creativity and Human Nature. Oxford University Press. p. 151. ISBN 978-0-19-850706-2. 
  5. ^ a b Hoyler, Emily (2014-12-25). "Handel's Messiah: A Christmas Oratorio?". University of Chicago. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  6. ^ Collins, Cynthia. "The 'Hallelujah Chorus' Traditionally Brings People to Their Feet". CMUSE. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  7. ^ a b "'Messiah,' a Seasonal Standard Standing Strong". Washington Post. 2004-12-16. Retrieved 2017-04-10. 
  8. ^ Ross, Alex (1993-12-21). "Critic's Notebook - The Heavy Use (Good and Bad) Of Handel's Enduring 'Messiah'". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  9. ^ Morgan, Robert (2010). Then Sings My Soul Special Edition: 150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories. Thomas Nelson Inc. p. 55. ISBN 141857824X. 
  10. ^ Duncann, Geraldine (2015-11-23). "The Messiah in and around The San Francisco Bay Area". AXS TV. Retrieved 2017-04-11. 
  11. ^ "Taking a stand for 'Messiah'". The Boston Globe. 2009-12-19. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  12. ^ a b c Smither, Howard (2000). A History of the Oratorio: The oratorio in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. UNC Press Books. p. 265. ISBN 0807825115. 
  13. ^ "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus! Etiquetteer's Position on Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus," Vol. 14, Issue 43". Etiquetteer. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  14. ^ "Handel's 'Messiah' in Hebrew". San Diego Jewish World. Retrieved 2017-04-11. 
  15. ^ Atherstone, Andrew (2014). Evangelicalism and the Church of England in the Twentieth Century: Reform, Resistance and Renewal. Boydell & Brewer Ltd. p. 5. ISBN 1843839113. 
  16. ^ "Sing Hallelujah!". BBC. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  17. ^ Zauzmer, Julie (2016-03-15). "Watch singers all over the world join in 'Hallelujah' in this impressive Mormon video". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  18. ^ "Fans sing Alan Shearer's praises". BBC News. 2006-12-23. Retrieved 2017-04-09. 
  19. ^ "6 Pieces of Music That Mean The Opposite of What You Think". Cracked.com. 2011-01-25. Retrieved 2017-04-11. 
  20. ^ "Case Report". Canberra: Advertising Standards Bureau. Retrieved 2017-04-11. 
  21. ^ "Hallelujah! Flashmob hits mall food court". WND. 2013-12-15. Retrieved 2017-04-11. 
  22. ^ Patrick Counihan (2016-04-15). "Flash mob rendition of 'Hallelujah Chorus' stuns Dubliners". Irish Central. Retrieved 2017-04-11. 
  23. ^ Fortier, Bill. "Man's ring dream comes true". Worcester: The Telegram. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  24. ^ "12/8 Moore's TNA Impact Wrestling TV Review: Eddie Edwards vs. EC3 for the TNA Championship, Moose vs. Aron Rex for the TNA Grand Championship, Allie vs. Laurel Van Ness, Broken Matt Hardy hypes Total Nonstop Deletion". Prowrestling.net. 2016-12-09. Retrieved 2017-03-09.