Friday, June 15, 2012
Carnegie Hall - A Surprise Made Better by Ignorance
Yes, that is me (in the red circle) and I'm singing in Carnegie Hall. That day was one of the most memorable in my life, but not for the reason you might think.
Of course it was amazing to be in New York City, to see the sights, to sing in that famous hall with professional soloists. It was amazing to sing "The Messiah" on Palm Sunday. It was spiritual, it was professional, it was educational, it was amazing.
The best part was a surprise.
I know classical music fairly well. My mother has been a piano teacher my entire life - so growing up I heard endless renditions of classical music. I loved it. Every Christmas and Easter she would play some of Handel's Messiah and I would enjoy the music.
I knew the Hallelujah Chorus. It was that famous song they sang at Christmas every year - right?
I had the privilege of being a member of my high school's top choir - Royal Blue. There were about 24 of us, and that year's big project was to learn the Messiah so we could sing it with three college choirs and one other high school in Carnegie Hall with professional soloists. We spent months practicing. We went really slowly through the music at first and worked our way up to tempo. By the time March came we all knew our parts, and we knew them well. I must have sung the Hallelujah Chorus 100 times between individual rehearsal and Tenor sectionals, and entire choir rehearsals.
I knew the song. I could sing it with my eyes closed.
Then the day came. We began at Part 2 song 22: Behold the Lamb of God. After singing 5 songs and listening in rapture to multiple arias by the soloists - it was time.
The Orchestra began the music I knew so well. I literally felt my face flush in anticipation. This was what I had waited for. The conductor gave us the sign and our voices rang out "HALLELUJAH."
Then the unexpected happened. As we opened our mouths to sing the second "Hallelujah" - the entire audience rose to it's feet. I literally stopped singing for one moment as I stared at the audience. I stood there thinking "our singing is so inspirational that they couldn't help but stand." It was the greatest moment ever. I sang my heart out for those people. I made that song as powerful as my 16 year old lungs could muster. We finished with "Worthy is the Lamb" and the Amen chorus. Then we stood and enjoyed the appreciative applause of the audience.
No one told me till the next day that since 1756 it has been a tradition to stand during the Hallelujah Chorus.
Ignorance is bliss, right?