Posted on 8 March 2019
by MMNY Staff
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In this participatory choral program open to all interested vocalists, producer Melissa Gerstein and conductor Douglas Anderson team up to bring George Fredric Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” – from his Messiah oratorio, the oldest continuously performed piece of Classical music – out of the concert hall and onto the streets of NYC.
Prior to the winter solstice, participants can access a free, specially crafted sound file to download to their smart phone at MakeMusicNY.org. Then, on December 21st, singers congregate at one of four popular locations spread throughout Manhattan and gather into vocal groups (soprano, alto, tenor, bass). Wearing a single ear bud to hear the sound file, which includes an orchestral introduction to set the tempo and pitch, singers and their conductor then synchronize the start of the performance and make their way among the crowds. To the surprise of bystanders, a seemingly spontaneous outburst of the famous choral piece unfolds in their midst, while performers revel in the joy of creating a unique, full-throated version of the choral masterwork.
WHEN AND WHERE:
The Mobile Hallelujah will kick off from Verdi Square and then travel to three additional popular Manhattan locations. Participants and fans can travel along to the performances in all four locations, or join the procession at any spot that is most convenient.
HOW TO JOIN:
Any singer who knows their part to the chorus is welcomed and encouraged to participate simply by showing up to their preferred location by the start time, but if you know you will be participating please send a courtesy email with the subject line “Mobile Hallelujah” to firstname.lastname@example.org that includes your name, location and vocal part (soprano, alto, tenor or bass).
As a guide track for vocalists, please refer to this recording:
If you prefer, you can download the guide track as an MP3 here. You can also download the sheet music for free here. And if you want to practice your part ahead of time, free files are available on Cyberbass.
INTERVIEW WITH PRODUCER AND VOCALIST MELISSA GERSTEIN AND CONDUCTOR DOUGLAS ANDERSON:
JB: Melissa and Douglas: I’m thrilled to have the chance to work again with both of you after last summer’s dynamic “Midsummer Mozart’s Requiem” program at the 9/11 Memorial Plaza, which was a highlight of our 2018 Make Music New York summer solstice celebrations. What was your inspiration behind creating a Make Music Winter program as well?
DA: Thanks James. We were so pleased and excited by the “Midsummer Mozart’s Requiem” experience that we wanted to find another participatory project to do for the winter solstice celebration. Considering the very different weather issues, we thought a purely vocal program would be best, and New York City is full of singers. Given the musical offerings common in the holiday season, we wanted something that both participants and listeners would find fun and exciting. “The Hallelujah Chorus” seemed a natural; singers love singing it, and it brings a great feeling to everyone who hears it, especially live. So why not sing “Hallelujah” all over New York City?
MG: Exactly! I’ve been participating in MMNY for several years now. One of my most memorable experiences was helping with the logistics and planning for “Jonathan Batiste’s, A Love Riot – Harmonabord Parade” back in 2013. It was great fun parading down the street with musicians and members of the public who stepped in to participate. Make Music Winter really embodies the spirit of New York and the spirit of New Yorkers in a very unique and inspiring way. “The Hallelujah Chorus” is one of the most iconic pieces ever composed and what better way to celebrate the solstice than to burst into song upon unsuspecting strangers in New York City. It will also be really fun to pair technology, via our SoundCloud file for singers, with a piece composed in the 18th century with a libretto designed and selected from the New and Old Testaments. It feels like technology is uprooting the experience of music listening and music making – maybe it’s helping to preserve it.
JB: Neat. For “The Mobile Hallelujah,” you have obviously honed in on another world famous choral masterpiece, but this one will be performed with a twist. Can you elaborate?
DA: We’re calling for singers to gather in four specific locations throughout Manhattan to sing the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s oratorio “Messiah,” which by the way is the oldest continuously performed piece of Western Classical music. The times for the performances are 45 minutes apart, which will allow us to sing the piece, then hop on a subway and get to the next location, moving around the city to surprise people at different locations with a good dose of vocal joy. People can sing in just one location, or do the multiple locations with us.
To coordinate the performers, we’ve got a recording of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from a concert I conducted and in which Melissa sang from 2016 with the Putnam Chorale. Singers can download it, and with a simple countdown to start the recording, everyone participating can hear the orchestral introduction and the accompaniment to keep them in tune and in tempo as they sing their parts together.
JB: Importantly, it is not too late for interested singers of all ages and skill levels to get involved. How can Make Music Winter fans participate in “The Mobile Hallelujah”?
DA: Anyone can participate by just showing up–the point is to have fun!! It does help us if people register ahead of time, so that we know how many people to expect at each performance location. Just send an email to email@example.com to let us know you plan to attend. And you can use this same email if you have any specific questions about the music or logistics, including transportation and getting around the city. Also, if you read the event description above, you can download the sound file we will be using to your smart phone, print out the sheet music ahead of time, and even find online help to practice your vocal part.
JB: Let me close by asking both of you if you’d care to share any challenges you have experienced in preparing for the program and what you are most looking forward to?
DA: We both have a lot of experience organizing musical events, but those are usually performed indoors, with rehearsals and so on. The challenge here comes with gathering a group of strangers and just doing a piece of music that we are all familiar with, as we did with the “Midsummer Mozart Requiem.” The hardest part for me was arranging the recording to help keep the performers together–I don’t really know much about downloading and uploading music. So thanks much to Dave Ruder on your staff, who was a great help and made that all happen like magic!
MG: We are extremely appreciative of the staff of Make Music New York sharing their ideas and knowledge when it comes to the things that Doug and I really need help with. I think another challenge could potentially be not knowing what the weather will be like. This a factor that we don’t have any control over. No matter what, we’ll be out there Making Music with our friends, families, and all of New York City. Hope you can join us!
Illustration by Kyle Lambert of Callout Creative