Top Five Pop Culture Versions of Handel's Messiah

From the Sublime to the You-Know-What

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Handel’s Messiah features three thematic parts, four soloists and more than fifty numbered passages, but it’s known universally for one word: Hallelujah. And that word becomes ubiquitous at Christmas, expressing the joy of a turkey dinner or as a replacement for the exclamation, eureka. Here are our five favorite invocations of the famous chorus from film, television and YouTube:

1. Lowbrow Comedy

At the end of 1994’s Dumb & Dumber Lloyd and Harry (Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels) are down on their luck, walking their way across the desert, when a Hawaiian Tropics bus pulls up to them. The windows open to the sounds of Hallelujah and a dozen blond beauties, pop out. Unfortunately the meeting doesn’t turn around Lloyd and Harry’s fortunes.

2. An Oscar Meyer Commercial

The Oscar Meyer wiener song is one of the great marketing jingles. But the company went a little higher-brow to sell its turkey cold cuts. In a somewhat unexpected twist, Oscar Meyer pairs the piece with a Thanksgiving feast rather than a Christmas dinner.

3. Flash Mob Performances

In a stunt seen by more than 38 million people on YouTube, a Christmas Food Court Flash Mob started singing the Part II finale for over a hundred unsuspecting shoppers. Since then, the idea has begotten many imitators: at a Florida airport and a Philadelphia Macy’s, among others.

4. A Film Musical

As Julie Andrews swoons for her baby-faced” future boss, Trevor Graydon, in Thoroughly Modern Millie, composer Elmer Bernstein interlaced a few Hallelujahs in between Richard Morris’s lyrics. They are timed to when Graydon (played by chiseled John Gavin) strikes a profile.

5. An MTV Cartoon

The gleefully revolting MTV cartoon, Ren & Stimpy, invoked Handel frequently and to great ironic effect. Handel’s music first appeared in the pilot episode (it accompanies the sun as it comes out from behind clouds and just before a dog catcher runs over the pair) and several times afterward—usually during a brief euphoric moment that’s about to be crushed. The cartoonist must have enjoyed Handel’s music: “Alla Hornpipe” from Water Music is included in later programs.

Weigh in: Do you have a favorite unusual version? Tell us about it below:

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Comments [3]

David from Flushing

A brief reference to Handel occurs in the 1956 musical, "The Bells are Ring." The telephone answering service at the center of the plot is taken over by an illegal horse race betting scheme under the guise of a classical music recording provider. Bets are placed using the names of composers. When the boss asks the staff, "Who is Handel?", they respond Hialeah! Hialeah! to tune of the chorus.

Dec. 26 2011 06:15 PM
The villages of Quinhagak, Alaska, uploaded this "silent" Hallelujah last year, but it's been quite a hot item this year as well.

Dec. 23 2011 01:49 PM
Melanie Axel-Lute from NJ

It's political, but spot on, and musically well done.

Dec. 23 2011 10:43 AM

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