Handel’s “Hallelujah” Chorus Was Performed by the Choir During General Conference in 1873
George Frideric Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus is one of the most popular and widely recognizable pieces of classical music. It is known by adults and children alike for its easy-to-recite lyrics and hummable melody.
The text for the “Hallelujah” chorus, as noted in a previous blog post, “The History of ‘Hallelujah’ Chorus from Handel’s Messiah,” comes from the book of Revelation in the New Testament. Revelation 19:6: “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Revelation 19:16: “And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” Revelation 11:15 reads, “And he shall reign for ever and ever.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir regularly performs music from Handel’s Messiah on Music and the Spoken Word broadcasts, as well as the complete oratorio every two years. What could come as a surprise is that the Choir performed the “Hallelujah” chorus during a session of general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1873.
Millicent Cornwall’s book Chronological History of the Salt Lake Tabernacle Choir states “The ‘Hallelujah’ chorus (Handel) was sung by the choir in the Tabernacle in the concluding session of Conference.” We aren’t positive if this was the first time or the last time, but this 1873 performance of the piece is definitely different than what modern Church members are used to hearing in general conference.
As the famous story goes, King George II was rumored to have attended a royal performance of Messiah when he stood during “Hallelujah.” It was customary that everyone in the king’s presence also had to stand, which became a tradition going forward during performances. The real question is did everyone stand up during “Hallelujah” at general conference in 1873? We’ll never know.
Watch the Choir sing Handel’s “Hallelujah” (standing up):