Well, I think we have time to add one more seasonal song to The Jukebox Hero Hymnal before year’s end, and what could be more appropriate than the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel's Messiah? What’s that you say, you’ve only got a small choir at your parish and don’t believe they can handle such an impressive piece of work. Well, The Roches are here to prove such an assumption wrong.
The Roche sisters have been around in one form or another since the late 60s. From a childhood spent singing in Catholic choirs, they eventually made their way into the music industry as backup singers for Paul Simon and writing tunes for artists like Phoebe Snow. Their own recordings, alas, have remained something of a cult item. A shame, considering their obvious talents. Just listen to what they can do with the “Hallelujah Chorus” with nothing but three voices (although, admittedly, it does help to have one of those voices be a contralto like Maggie Roche).
The funny thing about the “Hallelujah Chorus” is that even though it is most often sung at Christmastime, the lyrics are more fitting for Easter. It’s the earlier parts of Handel’s Messiah which sing of the birth of Christ, while the “Hallelujah Chorus” itself deals with his return in the Book of Revelation. Still, if you think about it, it’s not really that out of place to sing the conclusion of “The Messiah” at Christmastime. As Fr. Brian Daley, S.J. explains, “The relationship between the first and Second Coming, is one of promise and fulfillment. We believe that in Jesus the Word of God became flesh and lived in our human world and that that makes a permanent difference to history… The end of the world has appeared in embryo in the life and destiny of Jesus as the Christ." Now, that’s something to sing hallelujah about.
“After this I heard what sounded like the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying: ‘Alleluia! Salvation, glory, and might belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her harlotry. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’ They said a second time: ‘Alleluia! Smoke will rise from her forever and ever.’ The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, ‘Amen. Alleluia.’ A voice coming from the throne said: ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, [and] you who revere him, small and great.’ Then I heard something like the sound of a great multitude or the sound of rushing water or mighty peals of thunder, as they said: ‘Alleluia! The Lord has established his reign, [our] God, the almighty. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:1-7, NABRE)