Peer PressureAugust 10, 2007
In a seemingly coincidental or randomly initiated event, I thought about Handel’s Messiah. Now I absolutely love that piece. Not only does its melody stir the heart, its lyrics also touch the soul. This experience builds up as the music progresses, and climaxes during the chorus when the sound becomes simply heavenly. It is just the most worthy praise for the Messiah who has conquered, all glory to him.
Yet there is a ritual that is done every time the chorus is played. It started when King George II leapt to his feet when he heard the chorus. Since it was not proper for subjects to remain seated while the king was on his feet, everyone stood up. And since that day every time Messiah is played, the audience stands up during the chorus and gives a standing ovation at the close.
Nevertheless, this ritual is quite unknown in this country. A few people know about it, but they are mostly foreigners, formally-Music trained, or taught in foreigner-founded schools (typically American). My mother belongs to the third group. I learned the ritual from her, but the knowledge lay dormant until that moment when I heard the Messiah performed 2 years ago.
The first group of people who stood up were those who knew the ritual, and were itching to do it at first chorus sound. They probably thought, “I’m standing up as is proper. Everyone should stand when the Hallelujah Chorus is played.”
The second group of people who stood up were those who knew the ritual, forgot about it, and promptly remembered it. They probably thought, “I knew I should have stood up at first sound. I just forgot for a moment. Good thing I remembered it just in time.”
The third group of people who stood up didn’t know the ritual, but simply stood up because everyone was doing it. They probably thought, “Wow. This performance must be really good. Everyone else thinks so. I must also think that it is so.”
The fourth group of people who stood up didn’t know the ritual, but stood up because they could no longer see the performers. They probably thought, “Hey, what are those people doing? I better stand up; I can’t see from here.”
I belonged to the second group. I met some people from the third group later, or they could have belonged to the fourth group. I’m not sure. Like I said, the ritual is not very well known here.