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"Messiah" customs (out of season question!)

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Portland, Oregon
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"Messiah" customs (out of season question!)

I meant to ask this question in December. The first Messiah performance I saw in London was at Royal Albert Hall in 1961. Everyone stood for the Hallelujah Chorus, as they have at every other of the dozens of Messiah performances I have attended, both in the US and UK (including St Martin-in-the-Fields in London). So I was surprised this past Christmas when I attended an excellent performance at the Barbican and perhaps 20 to 25% of the audience did not stand for the Chorus. Is this ignorance of historical custom, or intentional flouting of something they consider old-fashioned?

Hebden Bridge...
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1. Re: "Messiah" customs (out of season question!)

Maybe non-English speakers who didn't understand what was going on...

Who knows?

Oxfordshire
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2. Re: "Messiah" customs (out of season question!)

"as they have at every other of the dozens of Messiah performances I have attended,"

Then you've clearly had different experiences from me.

Over the past five years or so, every performance I've been to has indicated in the programme how the organisers or conductor want this to be treated. The last one included words to the effect "as was the custom in Handel's time, we do not expect our guests to stand for the chorus" (which, BTW, is almost accurate: the first documented case of this bizarre practice is 13 years after the oratorio's first performance, and just three years before Handel's death) .

Other programme notes have implied that most people do stand - and in every case, a number of audience members have looked puzzled, sometimes stood and sometimes haven't. I've never been to a performance where everyone stood.

Certainly in Britain, there's always a substantial proportion of people (though rarely as high as 20%) who actively won't stand: for anti-religious reasons, because they know the myth and refuse to follow a practice of fawning on the monarchy, because they accept the recent argument that the custom is essentially anti-semitic (read the text before the chorus and see what it is that the Hallelujah is a response to), because they really can't be bothered or because they think it's just silly. Which of course it is: do you stand for the Credo in a Bach or Mozart Mass?

I'm puzzled that you've found that all Americans are determined to follow the herd. Such unthinking conformism would be utterly unEnglish.

London, United...
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3. Re: "Messiah" customs (out of season question!)

The last performance i went to the conductor made an announcement asking people not to stand when we got to that point. Some people still did, and i thought, good on you, and also a bit resentful that the conductor had intervened in the audience's business. Why should the conductor tell the audience how to behave? Its a silly tradition, but so is wearing evening dress.

Hampshire, England.
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4. Re: "Messiah" customs (out of season question!)

" or intentional flouting of something they consider old-fashioned?"

As someone who is old enough to remember the audience standing for God Save the Queen at the end of a film in the cinema (and as a kid, if you didn't stand you got a clip round the ear from the grown up sitting behind you), I think you are probably right.'

London
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5. Re: "Messiah" customs (out of season question!)

Having been to more Messiahs than I can remember, I don't really like the custom of standing, basically because I feel it disrupts the continuity of the performance, but I will tend to do it if at least around half of the audience are standing up, as I don't like to look like a nonconformist.

In answer to your point, flanner, no, I've never seen anyone stand for a Credo in any Mass in concert performance. However, I did once go to an entirely secular concert at the RAH which included a performance of a Mag and Nunc. Somebody sitting nearby to me stood up for the whole performance of the canticles and even bowed for the doxologies. It looked ridiculous, of course.

London
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for Thirassia, Fira
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6. Re: "Messiah" customs (out of season question!)

However, I did once go to an entirely secular concert at the RAH which included a performance of a Mag and Nunc. Somebody sitting nearby to me stood up for the whole performance of the canticles and even bowed for the doxologies. It looked ridiculous, of course.

===============

Probably didn't do much for the enjoyment of the person sitting behind them, either.

7. Re: "Messiah" customs (out of season question!)

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