Let me start out by saying, I feel your pain. I get it. I understand the trend, I really do.
Attendance is down, costs are up, and you get two days a year to try and impress the casual churchgoers enough that they come back for boring ol’ non-Easter, non-Christmas services.
That means breaking out the big guns for C&E. I get it!
But trust me on this one: the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah is not your friend.
Sure, it’s a crowd-pleaser. Sure, everyone knows it. And no one can deny that it’s dramatic.
Trouble is, it’s also hard to sing. Not by the standards of professional choruses, maybe, but it’s a big piece with multiple parts going in multiple directions at once. Novices are going to get confused and wander all over the place, trying desperately to find the familiar melody they know from TV commercials regardless of where their voice is actually supposed to be.
A talented organist using his instrument to its full capabilities can play most of those parts at once, giving everyone at least some guidance, but let’s be honest here — how many churches these days really have both an organist and an organ that can rise to the challenge?
Even if your congregants can find the right part, the singing is fairly challenging for an amateur with a cold start. These aren’t the hardest parts in all of choral music, but they do require a good sense of pitch and a strong set of pipes to get where you need to be and sound good while you’re there. (I, for example, can easily hit even the lowest notes of the bass part, but only in a savage growl more suited to Rammstein than Handel.)
And as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the “Hallelujah Chorus” isn’t even about Easter. (Seriously, it’s not. Look it up. Some Day of Judgement shit going on there.)
So let it go. Drop the Handel singalong from the Easter program — please.
There’s plenty of good, hearty, brass-quintet-friendly Easter stuff in the hymnal. Flip through it and find some.
The urge to impress on Easter is understandable, but trust me, untrained voices floating all over the place in search of their “And he shall reigns” is anything but impressive.