So I was at my daughter’s choir’s Christmas concert last night and it was just as you’d expect a small-town high school concert to be. My only complaint was that the choir director gave 15 minute introductions to five-minute songs. But with state and federal budget cuts looming I chalked it up (mostly) to art teachers constantly reinforcing the importance of their marginalized positions.

Of course, she was also really pretentious and that’s a problem; ‘cause if she put me off there’s no telling what goodwill she burned on the redneck population with her artsy-fartsy explanations.

As she slogged through the explanations of all the Latin in the songs I leaned over to my fiance and pointed out the director left out a definition of hallelujah (I know. It’s not Latin). My seven-year old overheard me and said, “I think it means Hooray.”

From the mouths of babes...

But that’s not what I came here to talk about, I came to talk about the songs.


I live a pretty insular life, mostly in my pajama pants. And although I’m exposed weekly to asinine praying before public meetings I see the prayers for what they are − the prete
nse of publicly-elected officials.

Watching nearly 100 teens singing about the lor
d’s coming, however, disquieted me in a visceral way. Jumping around to spiritual songs seemed a little, well, primitive.

The big finale was “Hallelujah!” (also known as the Messiah Chorus). It was easily the best performed song of the night. I’ve heard it a million times but last night it was ominous and disturbing whereas it used to be inspirational and powerful. My malaise had nothing to do with the performance or the arrangement.

What disturbed me, I think, was my own sense of alienation. It occurred to me about halfway through that for nearly everyone in the auditorium, “Hallel
ujah!” wasn’t just a nice song. It was a statement of fact.





It really started to creep me out a bit. The people surrounding me (both in the theater and on the planet) really base a lot of their lives on the premise that the lyrics of Handel’s Messiah are more factual than gravity. It’s a point of view that I went from regarding as one might a friendly neighbor who happens to be a conspiracy theorist to that same neighbor once he started stockpiling guns. Unchecked religious belief makes me really afraid for the future.

Which, as I’m sure the choir director would point, out includes both “forever” and “ever.”



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