Take it in!

Because I am a bit of a curmudgeon, and I admit it, I wasn’t so smitten with a recent viral video of Handel’s Alleluia Chorus being performed in Macy’s. The whole thing felt claustrophobic, and visually, I found it unmoving. Is there anything less interesting to look at that someone videotaping something?

But then I am prejudiced against the whole notion that everything must be videotaped at all times. I’ve groused about that elsewhere on the blog.

But I liked this video, which I picked up from Lisa Graas on Twitter. The singers are terrific, the scene not so overpacked, and one gets to really see something of the responses in the crowds; still too many people videotaping rather than experiencing the moment fully within themselves for me, but the fellow at 3:23 struck me by his stillness. He was not videotaping or looking around. He was just listening, really taking it in, and you can see it on him. You can see it in his stillness.

I like it when people who know the piece join in the singing, but this crowd really didn’t do that–they simply watched and enjoyed–and that was nice, too.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • tim maguire

    I understand about filming. I love having pictures but I hate taking them because, watching the scene through the camera, I am not of the scene anymore. I’ve removed myself, made myself a spectator to my own life.

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  • Jason

    I don’t have a problem with the filming or photo taking. It’s something I used to struggle with, being the self-designated family photographer and videographer. Am I missing out on important things by doing this? Am I separating myself from my family?

    After a while, I decided that I wasn’t. I found a way around this by making a concerted effort to be in the moment while recording the event. You can do this, if you try. Granted, the video my be a little shakier and some photos more unfocused than would otherwise be, but it’s worth it. I have a video of my daughter’s first steps. Did I somehow deprive myself of that moment? Nope, and I can watch it over and over again.

    The whole argument against people videoing events like the flash mob or concerts, I think, somehow leave a odd taste in my mouth. It’s a little too much like: “You’re not doing life right!”, you know?

  • Julie

    I struggled mightily with that at my brother’s recent wedding. It was so unusual and warm and wonderful and gobsmackingly beautiful, and I wanted to have a piece of it to take home with me…but I wanted to totally be in the moment, too.

    I only ended up taking two photos, at the very end, and no video. My kids got a few though… ;)

  • RT

    For me, the real value of a video or picture comes from its rarity. I count the very few pictures of my husband in his youth among my favorite possessions (yes, we did scan them as well!)

  • http://JaneHartman.com Jane Hartman

    I enjoyed the Macy’s Random Act of Culture because many of our Christian churches (mainly Protestant, but Catholic sometimes) have forsaken the past musically. And also I loved the reverberation effect given from the mall’s high ceilings. Once again, churches have forsaken the tall, stone, gothic in favor of the bonanza building. I was really blessed by the singers praising God in the bastion of materialism.

  • Doren Hagen

    I don’t care what the circumstances, who is singing, who is observing/videotaping/photographing/listening/participating, how organized/unorganized, spontaneous/non spontaneous or the setting. This is simply the most gob-smackingly beautiful piece of music ever conceived in the heart and soul of man and embodies all that is true and good in our humble species.

  • Doren Hagen

    Oh, and I’ve long since stopped worrying about whether photographing or videotaping detracts from my enjoyment for I am forever able to better savor the moment captured on film.

  • tim maguire

    Jason, you may well find the trade off worth it, but that doesn’t mean the trade off doesn’t exist. I didn’t say you fall off the face of the earth, I said you remove yourself from the scene. Which you do.

    I filmed my child’s first steps too, but it meant that I wasn’t participating in her steps because I was several feet away working the electronic equipment.

  • http://westernchauvinist.blogspot.com Western Chauvinist

    Lordy, I can’t think of a better thing to have happen in a mall this time of year. Since I missed it live, I’m grateful to have witnessed it here. I always tear-up in gratitude when I hear a choir giving glory to God. All those souls united in raising their voices in beauty and praise… in our best imitation of God’s love for us!

  • Chris-2-4

    You know it’s hard to tell who is doing what from the video, but you do get a sense that some people not involved in the production recognized the song and stood as is the custom.

    That was nice to see.

  • http://victor-undergo.blogspot.com/ Victor

    Amen WC

  • Wendy

    Glad I am not the only one who tears up and cries without control when I hear these kinds of things. This one if by far my favorite out of all the flashmob/random act of culture things I have ever seen!

  • SteveM

    If you’ve ever been to the old Wanamaker’s at Christmas, you know that that warm, festive random act of culture was just right, right there…

  • Piano Girl88

    I loved the one at Wanamakers/Macy’s ~ perhaps it was special because I have a picture of my dad sitting at that organ just before or after he gave a recital there probably 70 years ago! But all of these “planned outbursts” (the opera in a fish market or Hallelujah Chorus in an eatery or department store) bring joy to my soul, and I’m pretty hard to please when it comes to musical performances! :~)

  • Ken in Kansas

    I don’t think of you as a curmudgeon. It’s why they make chocolate and vanilla. Now my daughter and I wept when we viewed the one at “Macy’s.” I put that in quotes because for people from Philly like me it will always be the John Wanamaker Store at 13th and Walnut. The Wanamaker organ and the great court at the holidays is something special to us. Plus for me the thought of the Hallelujah Chorus and the words, “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ,” sung in a temple of commerce (Mammon?) gives me goose bumps. God does honor his Word even when that word goes forth in the most unlikely places and he will be exalted. BTW, John Wanamaker was a wonderful Christian and would have approved I am sure.
    Now as to why you liked the other one more, maybe it’s just chocolate versus vanilla all other considerations aside.

  • Old Fan

    Very cool video thanks…

    Christmas is upon us again?

    I understand about the overt taping sensation.

    Then when I usually just take it all in, silently watching like this fellow, later I regret I did not video tape the offering to relive the moment, or be able to share it.

    It is a funny Catch 20-20-20-20.

    I always feel like I might be doing the wrong thing, at the wrong time, and have this regret.

    I am not surprised many are not discussing the aspects of the true embarrassment of the Clinton State Department revealed with the Leaks.

    Some are conflicted with wanting a TOUGH USA, not quite realizing this is not how the State Department should be operating, or ever have a record of operating in this manner.

    But I am used to the Clintons getting a pass. However, the heat is turning up all around, whether Conservative Pundits discuss the matter or not. This ugly Leaker is putting his own opinion in now:

    “WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Tells TIME: Hillary Clinton ‘Should Resign’”

    Wouldn’t doubt there is more attention into Mr. Assange from now on. Something suggests the International voices may also begin to privately – publicly call for Mrs. Clinton’s resignation. The point is, even if Americans are not confronted fully with the folly revealed about Mrs. Clinton and the Obama State Department in this mess – or ignore it as being standard procedure, Mr. Assange and others are being viewed by the rest of the World, and it isn’t pretty.

    This was advertised as the “smart power”, which was going to “restore” the USA’s standing in the World. Amazing how poorly it has gone.

  • zmama

    Others from Philly have already chimed in about Macy’s downtown being in the old historic Wanamaker’s building. At Christmas it does indeed get very crowded in the grand court as so many are there waiting to see the famous light show but it is truly a fitting setting for this sort of thing. I so wish their crystal tea room were still open to shoppers. I can remember going there with my family and having a snowball-which was a scoop of icecream rolled in coconut-but it was all so fancy! I too have a hard time considering it Macy’s. Macy’s was so NY and Wanamaker’s was ours.

  • http://? Clare

    Along with the guy just sitting and enjoying the moment, I especially liked the Mom reaching for her young son’s hand (he was standing on a chair beside her). A wonderful instance of Mom and son sharing a spiritual moment. Thank you.

  • bertha

    Allow me to be a curmudgeon too! Of course, a few pictures of important events makes sense, but at some point, the experience is better when detached from a camera. I cannot forget our trip to Florence, Italy several years ago to the gallery where Michaelangelo’s David is on exhibit. Taking pictures is prohibited, yet people came into the room with their video camera on and would not stop taping. Museum employees were constantly telling people to put away their cameras. It is somewhat like trying to take pictures of the Grand Canyon…it just isn’t the same as standing on the edge and breathing deeply at the awesome majesty of God’s creation.

  • zmama

    Anchoress-I’m sorry I can’t remember how you said to post a link but I just found the Friends of the Wanamaker organ site and if you scroll down there is some interesting info re. John Wanamaker who apparently also installed large paintings of Christ every Lent and Easter in the grand court where the sing along took place:


  • Mike

    In their defense, look at how many camera angles were used in the video.

    Also, look at how many of them had identical flat video handheld cameras, as well as professional-looking photo cameras.

    My guess is a very large number of them were there to help film with the choir to film and take photographs, and many got caught in the picture.

    In addition, if I was going to take part in a choral flash mob, I would probably tell a few of my family and friends to come and see it, and (perhaps) take some pictures. This also explains why so many in the audience knew to stand.

  • Steve Colby

    The sound quality in this video is too good to be true. Mall food court acoustics are not normally associated with fine arts concerts. All those camera angles yet no microphone in sight!

    @tim maguire: I sympathize with your point. I decided to put away my video camera and participate in my own life.

    @Anchoress: you wrote, “Because I am a bit of a curmudgeon, and I admit it”
    Say it ain’t so! ;-)

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  • Gail F

    I agree about the Macy’s video. I’ll bet it was really something to be there, but the video doesn’t capture it. However, this one does. I would love to have been in this food court! And however they filmed this, the sound is AMAZING on my computer. Not everyone is a fan of the Hallelujah Chorus but I can’t imagine why, it gives me goosebumps.

    I disagree about people not singing along, it looks to me as if a couple of folks are singing for fun and aren’t part of the chorus. But that’s one thing that is great about a choral “flash mob,” you can’t tell!

    My favorite flash mob video is the one at the train station in (I think) Amsterdam, with the dance to the “Do Re Me” song. It starts with two people waltzing and more and more join in. About midway through, a couple of dozen people pour down a stairway and onto the floor, until the whole floor is taken up by dancers. And when it’s over they all just walk away.

    Finally, about pictures: There is no right answer. Some people get caught up in filming and some people don’t. It depends on the person. I love to take photos but I can’t use the film feature of my phone! But if I could, and if I were there, I would be like the woman holding up her phone in the air and filming it so I could show everyone I know what happened in the food court!

  • Elaine

    Thank you for sharing this video. I just started to cry because it was so beautiful to stand up in a mall and sing this Hallelujah. Makes my day!

  • Maureen

    Re: sound quality

    If you know ahead of time that you’re going to do something like this, and you’re installing singers, I’m sure you can also make sure that you’ve got good stereo recorders and a good sound engineer on the project, as well as passing out cameras. You can do some wonderful things with home recording of live music these days, and software could help with the food court sound quality.

    The end of the video sounds like it’s a bit more “raw audio”.

  • http://catholiccitizenamerica.blogspot.com/ Brian Gill, AKA Aluwir, AKA Norski

    First, thanks for sharing that video.

    As to the video cameras? I suppose, ideally, everyone would be utterly swept away by the moment – and have perfect memories.

    I’ve used cameras and other recording equipment for so long, though, that it’d feel odd to *not* have a shot at recording a moment like this.

    Having a few ounces of technology in my hand isn’t much of a distraction, for me. No bragging – the camera I use is ‘smart,’ and does just about everything except point itself.

    My guess is that most of the folks with cameras were using the same sort of automatic settings.

    Finally, “the crowd” may not have joined in – but I’m pretty sure that at least one young woman did. I’d have to check again to be sure, though.

  • Jeff O

    If The Messiah really chose to appear in the food court wouldn’t it be great if all of these videos helped spread the word, like wildfire, around the globe?