Standing during the playing of the Hallelujah Chorus is a tradition dating back to the 1780's and possibly before. Legend has it that when the Messiah was first performed in 1743 in London, King George II stood during the performance of the Hallelujah Chorus and out of respect for the king, the other members of the audience also stood. Whether or not this actually took place is not known with the first account of the practice and its origin not being recorded until nearly forty years later in 1780. No matter the origin of the practice, standing during the Hallelujah Chorus is still a tradition in many English speaking churches.

My first introduction to the practice was about twelve years ago during the Advent season. During our bible study hour prior to the worship service, I was informed by one of the ladies in the class I was attending that the Hallelujah Chorus was going to be sung during the worship service that morning. I was then told of the tradition of standing during the singing of the piece and I made mental note of practice, though as I remember the response to my question regarding the reason for the tradition was in the neighborhood of "Because."

I will never forget that first time hearing the Hallelujah Chorus, for as the opening strains of Handel's work sounded across the sanctuary, the lady in question sprang to her feet as if stuck with a tack. She stood with an air of self-righteous smugness on her face, all the while radiating disapproval to those around her who were not as quick to their feet. I remember thinking at the time that tradition was a poor reason to stand during this piece if that was the result.

But after listening to the work Handel produced, I have come to realize that the truest reason to stand during the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus is to honor the God about whom the piece is sung. I stood the first time for tradition; everytime since then has been out of respect.