A beloved part of the Christmas tradition for many people is the performance of the Messiah, by Georg Friedrich Händel.

The most famous movement of this classic oratorio is the “Hallelujah” chorus.  Its text is drawn from three passages in the New Testament book of Revelation:

And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. (Revelation 19:6)

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)

And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:16)

In this splendid eight-minute release from BYU Television, we see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, clad in white and accompanied by the black-suited Orchestra At Temple Square, performing the exuberant Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

The first London performance of Messiah from G.F. Handel took place on 23 March 1743, in the presence of King George II.  When the first notes of the now famous Hallelujah chorus resounded, the King rose to his feet and remained standing for the duration of the piece.  As protocol forbade sitting while the monarch stood, the entire audience stood and stayed standing until the piece was complete.  It has since become tradition for audiences to stand for the Hallelujah Chorus.

There is another story told about this chorus that Handel’s assistant walked into the composer’s room after shouting to him for several minutes with no response.  The assistant reportedly found Handel in tears, and when asked what was wrong, Handel held up the score to this movement and said, “I thought I saw the face of God.”