Everyone ready for a ‘Do-It-Yourself Messiah’

Published 6:26 pm Friday, December 13, 2019

Memories of one of my most cherished Chicago experiences came flooding back to me when I read Terri Cowart Frazier’s recent piece about The Vicksburg Orchestral Society in The Post. I didn’t get to hear them though. “Don’t get around much anymore.”

But it didn’t take that much to be reminded of Chicago’s unique, yearly performance of Handel’s famed oratorio, The Messiah, and the story nearly everyone knows of how George II kept everyone standing for “The Hallelujah Chorus” and how we’re all still doing it nearly 300 years later.

Chicago, though, adds a wrinkle for the 44th consecutive year this year when it brings all of Chicago and much of Cook County together for an audience performance of this choral masterpiece along with professional soloists and a cadre of volunteer musicians to play for and support them both.

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Chicago cops and fine arts majors, cabdrivers and politicos, Cubs and White Sox fans, and every diversity on earth all take part. There are no auditions or rehearsals. There’s nothing else required. All you do is show up and sing.

This year, “The Do-It-Yourself Messiah” takes place on the 16th and the 17th if you happen to be there. Tickets are $15 and scores are on sale as well (if you can read them). Children are traditionally and understandably excluded because of the long performance time. But for the rest of us, we just show up and sing.

Of course, it helps a little if you actually can sing. Or have a range one can identify. Other than that, you just show up and sing.

My mother used to tell me, “I love you, but you cannot sing.” And if your mother tells you that, you probably should listen. But I didn’t. I went in and was welcomed. Besides that, I’m easily drowned out.

Not very many people know that this world-famous oratorio and its Hallelujah Chorus is not a Christmas one. It’s actually for Easter. Handel wrote it as an Easter oratorio, a reflection on the entire life of Christ — from birth to death and resurrection and finally to Kingship. The music from it we know best is actually the conclusion to Part II of the whole three-part “Messiah.”

But all over, every year, in every place and format, the Hallelujah Chorus is performed at Christmastime. Chicago’s, though, is “Do-It-Yourself,” not in a choir or concert hall, not even in a church, but en masse, and by the people.

So Ms. Frazier’s piece made me hope we could do something like that here and ask Vicksburg’s Orchestral Society to help us do it here. It wouldn’t have to be in church. It could be on the street.

It wouldn’t have to be at night. It could just as well be noon.

But it would be a new way for us to meet one another, to sit or stand next to each other and to wish a blessed Christmas to someone we’ll likely never see again.


Everybody ready?




Yolande Robbins is a community columnist for The Vicksburg Post.