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Top Five Pop Culture Versions of Handel's Messiah

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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: