Hallelujah! A Global Mash-up of Handel’s ‘Messiah’

BY Lauren Knapp  December 23, 2010 at 5:25 PM EST

The journalists who bring you The Rundown blog were debating last week what gift we could give you, our loyal readers, for the holidays.

One thing sprang to mind that is almost universally enjoyed this time of year: George Frideric Handel’s holiday masterpiece “Messiah.” You know, the one with the famous “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” chorus.

The oratorio is nearly as universal as death and taxes, and it seems everyone has an interpretation of it: from handbells to Hong Kong, from your uncle to a dance club DJ.

Even at the ripe old age of 269, the stirring “Hallelujah Chorus” retains a powerful power to draw people together.

Need more proof? A mall in Northern California had to be evacuated this week because of it:

An estimated 4,000 to 5,000 jammed the second-floor food court to witness a prearranged “flash mob” performance of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.”

So from the PBS NewsHour family with help from some of our friends at local PBS member stations and scores of people around the world who have uploaded their versions of “Messiah” to YouTube, here’s our global mash-up of the “Hallelujah Chorus”:

For a full presentation of “Messiah” and more history on the famous composition, NPR and WHYY offer a history lesson and performance:

The first performance of Messiah took place not in London, but rather in Dublin, on April 13, 1742. Handel gave the London premiere less than a year later at Covent Garden. It was not well received, in part because of objections to presenting a sacred work in that most profane of buildings–a theater! (Handel had advertised the oratorio as a “musical entertainment.”) It was only in 1750, when Messiah began to be presented in annual performances for a London charity at the local Foundling Hospital, that the public embraced the work.

And our own Paul Solman has looked at how composer George Frideric Handel was able to orchestrate a classic financial portfolio.

Special thanks to PBS member stations KTWU, WOSU, and Smoky Hills Public Television for their participation.