Listening to those rousing carols at Greenbelt in the UK, at their Cider and Carols festival, then listening to Handel’s Messiah, I thought how wonderful it would be to have entire congregations singing the powerful choruses from that work, however roughly. Not the way Handel intended it, of course, and likely to make a fair percentage of choir directors cringe, but I like it anyway.
We already do it with the Hallelujah Chorus in many congregations on Easter, when all those who wish may come up and join the choir. Not quite the same thing, but same idea.
One couldn’t have done it for the other choruses without a year of congregational rehearsal until quite recently, I don’t think. There isn’t the familiarity with “Behold The Lamb Of God” or “Worthy Is The Lamb” that there is with the Hallelujah Chorus. But I think rehearsal time could be cut down greatly with modern worship technology. With a large choir, and four screens across the front, each focused on a different section of the choir, the congregation has a big head start. The words could be on the screens, not static, but appearing on time for each part. As entrances are likely to be a major problem, the congregation having the visual cues of both the lyrics and the motions of the choir should get them a leg up on getting it right. The altos come in here somewhere. Ah, there’s the words and they are all drawing a breath. Go! Plus, they could see the choir director a bit as well. A few times through and I think everyone would approximately get it. The notes – yeah, they’re going to get a lot of that wrong, but with Handel, everyone thinks they have the melody, so folks will pick it up fast. It’s entrances, and holding your part without getting lost against other rhythms and notes that are the problem; they’ll have more help with that.
It sounds thrilling for a congregation. Handel’s choruses are what all praise choruses hope to grow up to be: single verses of scripture, repeated with variations, sung vigorously.
It could be done. Okay, if you have the capability to put up four screens, have a good choir, and a director who buys into the idea, it could be done. But still.
People might object to worship time being used for rehearsal in the weeks leading up to the full expression of the chorus – but worship is rehearsal anyway, rehearsal for our time in heaven. This is just another representation of that. You could even stress that theme of rehearsal in the rest of the service. Plus, you might get small children skipping around at home butchering “…to re-ceive pow-er, and rich-es, and wis-dom, and strength, and ho-nor, and glo-ry, and bles-sing.” Because it’s fun to sing. Especially “blessing.”