Ending 2018 on a high note

Published 1:04 pm Wednesday, January 2, 2019

By Peggy Walker, R.D.

Can you say hallelujah?  Not because Christmas is over or that 2018 is about to close, but for one glorious song!  In my humble estimation, The Hallelujah Chorus is one of the best songs ever written.  Performed it takes my breath away.  It’s what I call a “big song” … beautiful, commanding, strong, inspiring, uplifting and it makes my heart pound every time.

I first came to know this song in junior high chorus.  The school’s annual Christmas concert always included this song. I looked forward to the Friday before Christmas break with great anticipation when all the students went to the auditorium for assembly because of this one song.  Wonderful Mrs. Doxey, the choral director, aptly led the group through the bars of the song every year with both arms.  Her entire body moved to the demands of the song…highs and lows, crescendos and swells, timing changes, and volume ups and downs.

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She loved this song, too.  In a practice session I remember her explaining and showing us how to get more volume, head up but chin tucked slightly to open up the throat.  This one demanded plenty of volume! There is no mediocrity in this tune, in the words nor in the composition.

Written by George Fredieric Handel in 1741, in just a mere 24 days, this song is actually the last song in a three-part oratorio (similar to an opera) about the life of Christ.  It opens with prophesy of the coming messiah from the old testament book of Isaiah, and continues through his birth and ministry, to his death, resurrection and ascension back into heaven and ends with the Hallelujah Chorus.  Through the years the performance of this masterpiece grew and grew into a “huge-scaled” production.

The first performance was in Dublin in 1741 and later it went to London, where history says over 700 attended.  And because of limited space in the music hall women were asked not to wear hooped skirts and men were asked to leave their sabers at home to allow for more room for seating.  In attendance that night was King George II, who for some reason stood up during the song.  Protocol requires that when the King stands, all stand, so with that began the tradition of standing during the performance of The Hallelujah chorus.  We always stood in the school auditorium.

Not so much now.  I heard it beautifully preformed in a 900-year old cathedral in Poland back in the mid-nineties, with only a few of us standing.  And more recently I heard this majestic song again, performed without vocals in concert of Manheim Steamroller at the Orpheum in Memphis.  I glanced around but saw no one standing, but my heart still pounded in my throat. It again took my breath.

Ending on a high note.  I wish you peace, love and joy in 2019 and as the words of the song go, May the Lord God omnipotent reign forever and ever…King of Kings and Lord of Lords… in our hearts, in our land and throughout the world, every minute, every day, all year.  Can I get a Hallelujah Amen!

Happy New Year to you my friends.   

Recipe of the Week

Buttermilk Blueberry Coffee Cake

For the first breakfast of the New Year!

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

Zest from I large lemon

1 cup sugar, divided

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

½ cup buttermilk

Cream butter with lemon zest, and 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla, beat until well combined.  Toss blueberries with ¼ cup flour, set aside.  Whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.  Add flour mixture and butter milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour.  Fold in blueberries.  Pour batter into lightly greased 8-inch baking pan.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.  Place in 350-degree preheated oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until done in center.  Let cool in pan for 15 minutes before serving. It’s delicious!