Fourteen high school students shrouded in coffee-colored monastic robes caused a stir when they took to the stage for their school’s annual holiday show. They delivered a completely unexpected rendition of a classical music masterpiece that still has people talking.
The students of South Kitsap High School’s Vocal Music Department in Port Orchard, Washington, performed a creative take on Handel’s famous chorus, “Hallelujah,” back in 2008. Not a word was sung, but they devised an equally entertaining show with the creative use of large flip cards with words printed on the back of each.
Footage of their performance was shared on YouTube and has garnered over 21 million views to date.
Video that I posted last year that has gone crazy on YouTube. Enjoy!
While dressed solemnly in their humble brown robes, it quickly becomes apparent that the clever students’ performance is a fun-filled one. “Hallejulah” is a notoriously hard-to-sing piece, but the class devised a way to entertain without tackling all those difficult notes.
These monks, as if honoring vows of silence, render “Hallelujah” from beginning to end without words, using signs with various syllables of the song’s lyrics on them instead. As “hal–le–lu–jah,” the chorus, rings out, the well-timed flipping of cards in the hands of each monk in creative and ingenious ways impresses the audience, garnering praise and applause.
The group’s clever, comic choreography evokes hearty laughter from the audience almost immediately that doesn’t stop until the performance comes to an end.
In a testament to the timeless nature of the classic song and everything it stands for, footage of the performance was originally posted on YouTube by an affiliate of South Kitsap High School, Sally Mathes, in December 2008, but it still captivates online audiences to this day.
“This is the most innocent and harmless form of comedy I’ve seen in a long time,” one viewer commented. “This is worthy of Monty Python,” added another. “Whoever came up with it is a genius!”
“Shout out to the jumping one who can’t reach the high notes,” one viewer joked.
In 2016, a former student even took to social media to post a reflective comment. “It’s funny to think that almost 8 years since we did this at our school holiday concert, people are still watching it, and commenting on it,” they wrote, adding, “I’m the 3rd from the right on the bottom row.”
The famous choral classic “Hallelujah” dates back to the mid-18th century and is part of an English-language oratorio, “Messiah,” composed in 1741 by the renowned composer George Frideric Handel.
Part two of Handel’s work concentrates on the passion of Christ and ends with the “Hallelujah” chorus. Today, the oratorio in its entirety is one of the best-known and most performed choral works in Western music.
Mozart reworked and rescored “Messiah” in 1789 as a tribute to Handel, a composer he respected and adored. He expanded the orchestra to suit a Viennese audience by including clarinets, trombones, flutes, and trumpets.
According to The Guardian, a series of Big Band performances of “Messiah” at London’s Crystal Palace dazzled in the 1930s, and Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero later performed a sensitive improvisation of the “Hallelujah” melody that sought a return to the piece’s classical origins.
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Author: Louise Bevan