On Saturday, October 30, 2010, the Opera Company of Philadelphia brought together over 650 choristers from 28 participating organizations to perform one of the Knight Foundation's "Random Acts of Culture" at Macy's in Center City Philadelphia.
Accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ - the world's largest pipe organ - the OCP Chorus and throngs of singers from the community infiltrated the store as shoppers, and burst into a pop-up rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah" at 12 noon, to the delight of surprised shoppers. This event is one of 1,000 "Random Acts of Culture" to be funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation over the next three years. The initiative transports the classical arts out of the concert halls and opera houses and into our communities to enrich our everyday lives.
To learn more about this program and view more events, go HERE. Also visit Friends of the Wanamaker Organ. For a complete list of participating choirs and more information, go HERE. This event was planned to coincide with the first day of National Opera Week.
The purists will turn up their noses and say that GFH didn't intend the Hallelujah Chorus to sound like that. On one level they are right. But for me this video is just magic, taking me back to my teens, when for five or six years I and a handful of friends joined in the pre-Christmas combined church choirs of Sydney (800 or so people) singing The Messiah in a packed Sydney Town Hall to the accompaniment of the grand organ. A huge sound, massively inspiring, causing not just the melodies but also the words of Scripture to be stored in our hearts for life. (Actually, I think GFH would have been quite pleased!)
Back in 2002 when I was in Philadelphia, Father Eddie Rix of All Saints' Wynnewood took me in to Macy's to hear the afternoon recital on the Wanamaker Organ. I am a backyard organist, and for me that was a real thrill. After the recital, organist Peter Conte - who also plays at St Clement's Philadelphia - showed me over the massive console. Wow!