Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Flash Mob That Almost Wasn't (And Then Was)

Today was the big Hallelujah Chorus Sing-In at the Scottsdale Fashion Mall.

Our first inkling that this was going to be HUGE was the traffic getting to the mall.  Of course, that could just have been normal hilarity that happens three days before Christmas. I wouldn't know.  I avoid malls as much as possible, especially at Christmastime.  The absolute paucity of parking spaces might also have been normal for this time of year, but I suspected not.  After ten minutes or more searching, we finally parked on the very top of the garage, way back in a corner.  I'm not even sure it was a legitimate parking space, but we didn't get a ticket.  We had left an hour before the thing was to start, which should have been plenty of time, even allowing for the traffic.  But it was close.  We got into the mall at about ten to twelve, and we got near the Food Court by five of, only to find that we were too late.

It had already happened.

We were heartbroken.

We learned later that mall authorities, concerned about the size of the crowd and probably worried about repeating the problems they had yesterday in California (see the update to the first post of this blog), asked for the singing to happen early.  So they had started at 11:45, and it was already over by the time we got inside.

But all was not lost.  There were hundreds and hundreds of people gathered, and they were not to be denied.  People like us, who had come planning to sing at noon, weren't about to leave just like that.  Somebody was talking on a bullhorn--we learned later that he was telling people that the whole thing was over and that the crowd should disperse--but we could neither hear nor understand him.  Sue said, "We should just start singing."  "I'm a conductor," I said--the one and only time that this has seemed like a useful skill!  "I could get this thing going, but we need to be closer."  By this point, to try to see better, we had moved to the very top level of the mall and were standing at one end of it.  I figured if we could get more to the middle and start singing, people would join in.

As we made our way over there, the singing began--someone had obviously had the same idea.  And so, for about five glorious minutes, Scottsdale Fashion Mall reverberated to the sound of the Hallelujah Chorus in what probably was more like a flash mob.  This second, spontaneous time wasn't planned.  It felt a little more rebellious, somehow, because it wasn't really supposed to happen.

I imagine people have lots of reasons for going to an event like this.  For some, it's a response to the commercialism of Christmas to sing that great music in the middle of a shopping mall. For others, singing of the eternal reign of the King of Kings is a religious moment that might restore a little of the meaning to Christmas.  Still others like the sheer massive sound that so many people can make in a reverberant space.  It's all terrific.

Me?  I was overcome and could barely sing.  We were standing among people who weren't singing, which made it even more special, somehow.  Sue was in great voice.  So was Miriam.  Elizabeth sallied forth in spite of a cold.  I sang about every third phrase of the bass part, but we managed to contribute mightily at our end of the balcony.  It was just as thrilling as I'd hoped it would be, despite the rocky start.

We saw lots of people we know there, including a former student of mine, Ken Owen, who was back in town to visit his in-laws.  I haven't seen him in a couple of years, so it was especially nice to find him there along with his wife Angie and their three children, Thomas (age 5), Suzette (age 3, I think), and David (age 7 months and very robust!).  I had never met Suzette and David.  I still think of Thomas as the first "grandchild" of the choral department at ASU:  Ken was the first of my ASU students to have a child.

Singers, students, family, music -- what could be better?  So even though it had been announced on the news in advance and was hardly a surprise, and even though so many people showed up that it had to happen early to keep from being dangerous, it's all good.  And I got to sing it after all.

Here's a video of the first time (the one we missed).  I'll keep checking to see if any further videos are posted (especially of the second, unofficial time).  But this gives you the idea.

Scottsdale Mall Hallelujah Flash Mob, 12/22/2010

Here, courtesy of our friend Jane Little, is a photo of us.  This was taken before the spontaneous sing-along.  We're hiding our disappointment rather well, I think.  (Left to right, Elizabeth, Me, Miriam, Sue)

UPDATE:  Click here for a news clip on the event.

FURTHER UPDATE:  Here's a video of the time we got to sing.  You'll hear how it started in low and started to grow... (I hope you get the Dr. Seuss reference.)

Merry Christmas one and all, and keep on singing.

(Coming soon:  yesterday's bean soup...a success!)

1 comment:

  1. You may not have seen this happen, but to me it nicely demonstrates the awesomeness of the whole experience. Right after we finished singing, a woman standing in front of us turned around and asked mom if she was part of the planned flashmob (instead of someone who just happened to be there) and mom said yes. The woman then proceeded, with the support of all the people around her, to complement Mom's singing voice and thank her for participating in the event. I don't know about Mom, but I was really touched.