The soaring and iconic ‘Hallelujah’ chorus of Handel’s Messiah is rumoured to have moved King George II so much at the London premiere of the work in March 1743, that the monarch jumped to his feet in admiration, compelling the rest of the audience to follow suit.
No-one knows for sure if that is the true origin of the custom of standing for the uplifting section of the work, but there is absolutely no doubt that the Hallelujah chorus is a hair-raising and sublime moment in any performance of Messiah.
Audiences in Castlebar now have the opportunity to experience it for themselves when 100 local choristers, an orchestra, and a line-up of professional soloists, will perform one of the best loved choral pieces in Western music in the Church of the Holy Rosary on November 2 at 7.30pm.
The same performance last year was a sell-out event and raised a staggering €30,000 for Mayo Roscommon Hospice.
The event is the culmination of a novel fundraising idea called The Handel Challenge.
The challenge sees 100 amateur singers tasked with learning and performing all 21 choruses of Handel’s Messiah in just 12 weeks.
The choir members raise sponsorship for the benefiting charities at the same time.
This year, the chosen charities are Mayo Roscommon Hospice and Mayo Mental Health Association.
This year will also see An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, host the special performance.
The choir will be joined on the night by internationally acclaimed soloists Regina Nathan, Anne Marie Gibbons, Eamonn Mulhall, and Owen Gilhooly and the Dublin Oratorio Players under musical director Kathy Fahey and guest conductor John O’Keefe.
Ms Fahey said learning Handel’s Messiah in just 12 weeks is no mean feat.
“The choir have worked really hard to learn this beautiful, but difficult, oratorio and we are very excited about performing Messiah again this year for the people of Mayo,” she said.
“We are really looking forward to working with the professional orchestra and soloists and we can promise an evening of beautiful singing and music.”
Tickets are on sale now, priced at €25, from Mayo Mental Health Association, New Antrim Street, Castlebar, Mayo Roscommon Hospice charity shops in Knock, Castlebar, and Westport, and from Downtown Records, Castlebar and Westport.