Is it OK to sing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah during Lent?


#1

I belong to a non-Catholic choir in town and we’re set to perform Handel’s Messiah during Lent. Is it OK to sing the Hallelujah chorus or should I sit that number out? I know that the Alleluia is absent during Lent, but does that apply only to the Alleluia prior to the reading of the Gospel or to the saying or singing of Alleluia in any form during Lent?


#2

As far as I know, it only applies to the Alleluia in the Mass. It is frankly driving me crazy, this attitude that one cannot even say the word "Alleluia" during Lent. My kids have friends who are taught in Catholic school that you can't say the "A-word" during Lent, but in our Byzantine Divine Liturgy, the word is still there, as usual. In fact, in the entire cycle of liturgical services, the use of the word actually increases during the Great Fast. Perhaps it is something that has started to get children engaged in the liturgical year. I don't know, but I feel like shouting Alleluia from the rooftops.

Didn't really mean to hijack your thread with my rant, but I think you are perfect fine singing anything you would like outside of Mass.


#3

Thanks for your response. It’s always of interest to me to see the different approach of the different Rites. I certainly respect your perspective and hope to research the other Rites shortly.

From my perspective, I prefer to refrain from saying or singing Alleluia at all during Lent simply because it makes it all the more powerful when it is first said during the Easter Vigil (my favorite mass of the year). It’s just like the feast at Easter dinner tasting so wonderful because I’ve refrained from many foods during Lent. It adds to the celebration.

I think my predicament lies in not offending the choir director or the rest of the choir. Would my refraining from the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus (my gut feeling is that I shouldn’t sing it) cause dissention or would the other choir members be respectful of my decision to follow my spiritual conscience?

Perhaps the resolution is to let the choir master know that I feel uncomfortable singing it, but will do so in the interest of the choir as a whole.

What do others think?


#4

[quote="wattley, post:1, topic:317316"]
I belong to a non-Catholic choir in town and we're set to perform Handel's Messiah during Lent. Is it OK to sing the Hallelujah chorus or should I sit that number out? I know that the Alleluia is absent during Lent, but does that apply only to the Alleluia prior to the reading of the Gospel or to the saying or singing of Alleluia in any form during Lent?

[/quote]

During the Liturgical Season of Lent and Advent in a Catholic Church the Handel's Messiah is never sung. Lent and Advent are liturgical times of reflection for Penence and renewal in our souls.

How other Christian church's during Lent and Advent outside the Catholic Church choose their liturgical music repertoire is really unknown to me. I don't believe Lent and Advent take on the same meaning in Non-Catholic Christian church's as it does in the Catholic Church.

On a separate note surprising to some who may believe the Handel's Messiah masterpiece was written for the Christmas Season. Not so.

In truth, Handel did not write the Messiah as a piece of Christmas music. We know this for a couple of reasons. First, if you pay close attention to the words of the Messiah in the libretto (the text of the music) written by Charles Jennens, you’ll discover that only the first part of the composition has to do with the birth of Jesus. The second and third parts focus on his death, resurrection, the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost, and the final resurrection of all believers. Second, the first performance of the Messiah occurred, not during Advent or Christmas, but in Eastertide. Handel’s masterpiece was first performed in Dublin on April 13, 1742, 19 days after Easter. This was surely no accident. If Handel had envisioned the Messiah as a piece for Christmas, it would have been introduced in this season.

At any rate I think its beautiful for both the Easter and Christmas seasons


#5

You make a good point–The Messiah was absolutely written for Easter yet so many associate it with Christmas. In fact, the choir I’m in sang Part I during the Christmas season. We also sang Saint Saen’s Oratorio de Noel, which is a wonderful piece.

It makes me wonder why we aren’t singing Part II during Lent (the words are very powerful and appropriate) and singing Part III later on during Eastertide. It may have something to do with scheduling for our public concerts. Frankly, the choir is more about pursuing classical choral music and isn’t really focused on liturgical correctness. And since I voluntarily joined, I do have some obligation to the group. It’s just so hard to find a good Catholic choir in my town. Perhaps I should study to be a cantor.

Babochka, I’m interested in learning about the liturgy of the Byzantine rite to which you adhere. Can you email me some useful links?


#6

[quote="wattley, post:5, topic:317316"]
You make a good point--The Messiah was absolutely written for Easter yet so many associate it with Christmas. In fact, the choir I'm in sang Part I during the Christmas season. We also sang Saint Saen's Oratorio de Noel, which is a wonderful piece.

It makes me wonder why we aren't singing Part II during Lent (the words are very powerful and appropriate) and singing Part III later on during Eastertide. It may have something to do with scheduling for our public concerts. Frankly, the choir is more about pursuing classical choral music and isn't really focused on liturgical correctness. And since I voluntarily joined, I do have some obligation to the group. It's just so hard to find a good Catholic choir in my town. Perhaps I should study to be a cantor.

Babochka, I'm interested in learning about the liturgy of the Byzantine rite to which you adhere. Can you email me some useful links?

[/quote]

Here's one link. metropolitancantorinstitute.org/liturgy/LiturgicalBooks.html

I've never had the privilege of going to a Byzantine rite Catholic service.
I do know I'd love to some day. I've watched services on TV and Youtube. There beautiful.


#7

[quote="centurionguard, post:4, topic:317316"]
During the Liturgical Season of Lent and Advent in a Catholic Church the Handel's Messiah is never sung. Lent and Advent are liturgical times of reflection for Penence and renewal in our souls.

How other Christian church's during Lent and Advent outside the Catholic Church choose their liturgical music repertoire is really unknown to me. I don't believe Lent and Advent take on the same meaning in Non-Catholic Christian church's as it does in the Catholic Church.

On a separate note surprising to some who may believe the Handel's Messiah masterpiece was written for the Christmas Season. Not so.

In truth, Handel did not write the Messiah as a piece of Christmas music. We know this for a couple of reasons. First, if you pay close attention to the words of the Messiah in the libretto (the text of the music) written by Charles Jennens, you’ll discover that only the first part of the composition has to do with the birth of Jesus. The second and third parts focus on his death, resurrection, the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost, and the final resurrection of all believers. Second, the first performance of the Messiah occurred, not during Advent or Christmas, but in Eastertide. Handel’s masterpiece was first performed in Dublin on April 13, 1742, 19 days after Easter. This was surely no accident. If Handel had envisioned the Messiah as a piece for Christmas, it would have been introduced in this season.

At any rate I think its beautiful for both the Easter and Christmas seasons

[/quote]

It's a pet peeve of mine that places will sing the Hallelujah Chorus on Christmas when it is clearly written for Easter. Sing Part I all you want - it's some of the best Christmas music around. But leave Part II for Lent and Part III for Easter. And if you're going to do the whole oratorio in one shot, definitely wait until the Easter season.


#8

[quote="wattley, post:5, topic:317316"]
You make a good point--The Messiah was absolutely written for Easter yet so many associate it with Christmas. In fact, the choir I'm in sang Part I during the Christmas season. We also sang Saint Saen's Oratorio de Noel, which is a wonderful piece.

It makes me wonder why we aren't singing Part II during Lent (the words are very powerful and appropriate) and singing Part III later on during Eastertide. It may have something to do with scheduling for our public concerts. Frankly, the choir is more about pursuing classical choral music and isn't really focused on liturgical correctness. And since I voluntarily joined, I do have some obligation to the group. It's just so hard to find a good Catholic choir in my town. Perhaps I should study to be a cantor.

Babochka, I'm interested in learning about the liturgy of the Byzantine rite to which you adhere. Can you email me some useful links?

[/quote]

A choral concert is not a liturgical event, and it is not bound by the rules of liturgy. After all, when was the last time you saw a Christmas concert actually be held during the Christmas season? They're all during Advent.


#9

It isn’t a sin, and I can certainly understand a choir needing to practice for Easter during the latter part of Lent. (I do not, however, understand a Messiah concert during Lent–that should wait until Easter.) I personally follow that quaint old custom of not saying the A-word during Lent. It makes its recitation or singing all that much sweater come Easter!


#10

On Sunday, the lesson for my catechism class focused on the Holy Triduum. Since “alleluia” is reintroduced liturgically during that time, it was included in the lesson. One of my students insisted, however, on not saying it because of Lent despite my explanation that it was appropriate for class in context of the lesson.

BTW - private devotional use (such as a performance) is okay. :thumbsup:


#11

I wasn’t aware of this before. Why do people refrain from using it during lent? Is it just the significance of saying it when lent ends and easter arrives?


#12

I think it is because of the penitential character of Lent. We also omit the Gloria and use the Confiteor in the Penitential Rite (many parishes use only the Kyrie outside of Lent).


#13

Ah OK. Thanks for that.


#14

[quote="TheKingdomOfGod, post:11, topic:317316"]
I wasn't aware of this before. Why do people refrain from using it during lent? Is it just the significance of saying it when lent ends and easter arrives?

[/quote]

The Church omits the Alleluia from the Mass and other liturgies during Lent, so many people refrain from using the word altogether as a private devotion, as a means of more deeply entering into the Passion of our Lord.


#15

When the Gloria is reintroduced at Holy Thursday, the entire choir rings bells in my parish. It is a glorious sound. :smiley:


#16

The Gloria is omitted as a matter of Church law, although the Gloria is sung on Feasts and Solemnities during Lent (the Alleluia is never sung during Lent for any reason). There is no seasonal character to any of the options of the Penitential Rite, so any of them can be used at any Mass at the priest’s discretion.


#17

The Gloria is sung on a few occasions during Lent, not only on Holy Thursday. The bells are rung during the Gloria on Holy Thursday because the bells themselves are then silenced until the Gloria of the Easter Vigil.


#18

[quote="aemcpa, post:16, topic:317316"]
There is no seasonal character to any of the options of the Penitential Rite, so any of them can be used at any Mass at the priest's discretion.

[/quote]

Thanks. :)


#19

That makes sense. In our liturgy, we have a special troparion (a hymn or verse associated with the saint or feast of the day) for Pascha, which is repeated many, many times on Easter Sunday, and gradually fades throughout the season. It is particular only to the season and would certainly feel awkward and a little wrong to sing it outside of the proper time, even non-liturgically. Likewise for our greeting for Pascha, used liturgically and non-liturgically, “Christ is Risen!”

I’ve been thinking about this. I went off on my rant earlier without really thinking this through. I’ve been dealing so much with this “don’t say Alleluia” stuff with my kids, that I just reacted . It was interesting to learn on this thread that Handel’s Messiah was actually written for Easter. I had no idea. I actually agree that it is a bit inappropriate for Lent, with that knowledge. Is this some sort of Easter concert? It brings to mind the Holy Saturday egg hunts all over town. On the other hand, if this is a non-Catholic, non-liturgical group, they probably already think they’re in the Easter season. Let’s face it, the culture doesn’t understand us at all.


#20

I must confess that I don’t understand the Lenten prohibition of the word “Hallelujah” (it’s a Hebrew word, and it does start with an “h”, despite how it looks in Latin). “Hallelujah” is a 2nd-person plural imperative to praise the Lord (“Jah,” short for JHVH). Over the years and through its translation into other languages, it has lost its imperative character and has become just an expression of praise. So, why should we stop praising the Lord during Lent?

With regard to the “Hallelujah Chorus,” it actually refers neither to Christmas nor to Easter, but to the Second Coming and the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth. The lyrics are from the Revelation: “For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth . . . the kingdoms of this earth have become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ . . . and He shall reign forever and ever.”


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