Singing “Messiah” for Fun

MOS will soon hold its 4th Annual Messiah Sing-Along and the approaching event has caused me to think a bit about this whole experience of a Sing-Along Messiah.  I conducted several of these Sing-Alongs back in the 1980s, but hadn’t done another one until The Michael O’Neal Singers began its version several years ago.  From what I’ve been able to discover, the concept of a Messiah Sing-Along caught on in the USA in the late 1960s and early 1970s .  Certainly there have been really BIG performances of Messiah dating back to the early and mid nineteenth century, but these took place primarily in England.  Those Brits loved big choral societies and they really adored singing Messiah with big choirs and big orchestras!  I think there were even some performances with a thousand singers or more.  There were also unrehearsed performances where the audience served as the chorus, and in Great Britain these were called “scratch Messiahs,” as in cooking from scratch.

The Messiah Sing-Along has now become a very popular event in many American communities, and especially during the Christmas Season there will be hundreds of these celebrations.  What makes them so popular?   I have several thoughts as to why that might be.  One is that Handel’s “Messiah” is a work that most choral singers have performed.  Another is that during the Holiday Season a Sing-Along provides a wonderful shared experience, whether one particpates as an individual or as part of a group.  And finally, I suggest that people enjoy participating in Messiah Sing-Alongs just because they are fun! 

So, what do you think?  

Showing 2 comments
  • Ashe

    Love sing-alongs! My question is always why it can only ever be the Messiah – much as I love it. In the summers, the University Musical Society Choral Union (Ann Arbor, MI) has “Summer Sings” open to the community to run through big choral works, but obviously most of the participants are already choral singers. Perhaps the need to sight-read music is the barrier.

    I’d love to see caroling make a comeback.

  • Jean Herndon

    I thank you for bringing back memories, from the early 70’s, of the annual benefit “Messiah” sing-alongs at the Kennedy Center in our Nation’s Capitol. The only requirement was to bring your own music. As an amateur, I was thrilled to be able to share my love of this music with hundreds of other singers in such a beautiful new Performing Arts facility. I certainly also appreciated the opportunity to sing along with the National Symphony Chorus accompanied by the NSO.

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