My wife sent me an email a few weeks ago about a “flashmob Hallelujah chorus.” These things have been happening in a few parts of the country at least since last year. There are links below to the YouTube of this flashmob and to my interview with a participant, so read on!

Funded as part of the “Random Acts of Culture” program by the Knight foundation, the general idea, for this type of flashmob, is to plant a choral group, disguised as shoppers or whatever, in a crowded public place. They break into Handel’s famous Hallelujah Chorus (from the Messiah), as people around them basically are awestruck. Very cool idea.

The Youtube clip Cathy sent to me—come back here after you watch it!—was from a group of choirs, professional and community choirs in Philadelphia, who staged their act at Macy’s, home of the famous Wanamaker pipe organ, on October 30. It moved me to tears, and I’ve heard of similar reactions from others (there were 6 million+ views when I last checked).

A heart-moving question drove my reaction: Can’t we put aside the fussing, the competing, the working, the worrying, the struggle in our lives and just be open to beauty?

It begs the question, especially during Advent: How is God breaking into our lives? Right in front of our faces? All around us? It’s the kind of question St. Francis asked; it’s what we at St. Anthony Messenger help our readers, listeners and viewers to ask.

Interview With a Participant

SAM editor that I am, I started thinking: There has to be a Catholic angle to this. I carefully studied the credits at the clip’s end, and, sure enough, spotted a Catholic school. So I searched the Web, got on the phone and eventually was connected to Camden Catholic choir director Nancy Warner Keiser. Her son sings with the Philadelphia Opera, which was involved in this Random Act of Culture.

Nancy enlisted her school liturgical group, and another she leads at a nearby parish: “We went, were given about a half-hour prep, given shopping bags, buttons that said ‘Random Acts of Culture’ and we sang the Messiah!” she explains. Needless to say, she adds, it was “a lot of fun.”

You can hear my 5-minute interview with here at the link below, and watch the fun performance on the link above that, but let me leave you with something she said, after telling me about the many public events her choirs sing: “You don’t do things for any kind of reward,” she said. “The kids just love to sing. They love to use the gift God gave them to share with other people.”

There’s something for all us to consider as Advent yields to Christmas, the feast of the Incarnation, God’s gift to us, in the coming days.

Here’s a link to the YouTube clip.

Here’s a link to my interview with Nancy.

Top photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Opera Company


About the Author

John Feister is editor in chief of St. Anthony Messenger magazine. He has a B.A. in American Studies from University of Dayton, and master's degrees in Humanities and in Theology from Xavier University. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, and was previously an adviser to the Communications Committee of the U.S. Catholic bishops (2000-2006). His latest book, Thank You, Sisters: Stories of Women Religious and How They Enrich Our Lives is available from the Franciscan Media catalog. He has cauthored four books with Richard Rohr (Franciscan Media), and coauthored, with Charlene Smith, the biography of Thea Bowman (Orbis books).
  • http://www.americancatholic.org Sharon Lape

    Thanks for investigating the background of this event, John! I’ve been fascinated by this “Random Act of Culture” since the first time I saw it on Youtube and have since watched other similar clips. Maybe you and some of our other talented coworkers can do something similar one day in the lunchroom! :)

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  • http://twitter.com/KristaNeher Krista Neher

    John – I love that video – thanks so much for sharing it! Great posts and congrats on the interview also – it is interesting to hear about how these things come together.

  • Sldigman

    John, the goosebumps I get when watching these videos this season surely attests to Nancy’s comment about using our God-given gifts to share love with others!