It’s an apocryphal anecdote at best, but it’s endured and followed George Frideric Handel’s glorious "Hallelujah" Chorus for centuries: the tradition of standing up when it’s performed because England’s George II did it first in 1743, with all his loyal subjects following suit.
Yes, the king might’ve gotten to his feet because Handel's music really moved him. Other possible reasons: the King might merely have had a need to stretch his legs, or relieve his discomfort from gout by standing up. What we do know definitively is that Handel himself was extremely moved by what he’d composed. When he finished the "Hallelujah" Chorus, his servant found him weeping as he exclaimed, "I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself."
As a longtime violinist who’s played many a “Messiah,” I gotta admit I still get goosebumps every time we strike up the rousing introduction to the "Hallelujah" Chorus. And for whatever reason, to this day, audiences still all rise to their feet.
Catch our live broadcast of Handel’s great oratorio "The Messiah" by the Colorado Symphony and Chorus on Friday at 7:30 p.m.. Or get ye to a performance this season (you have options; check the Classical Calendar) to enjoy the performance in person. Either way, it’s ok to get out of your seat to stand tall for Handel!