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Food Court Flash Mob…Hallelujah!

Food Court Flash Mob…Hallelujah!

• By Ashe Lockhart
• November 13, 2010

>> My friend Ellen Cuthbertson Archer recently posted a link on Facebook to a YouTube video of a flash mob performing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus at a mall food court. Now, I could not have had this stirring experience without the myriad of information technologies that made the whole thing possible – but that’s a side note. The real story here is the flash mob, the people who performed, the people in the “audience,” what they did and how this event captured a moment in time when an otherwise disparate people shared a nexus of connection – all of which is symbolic of the true unity of human kind in more ways than I can even begin to articulate.

First, for the uninitiated, Wikipedia defines a flash mob as “a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual act for a brief time, then disperse” (12 Dec 2010). If you are like me, your only exposure to a flash mob before now was watching a T-Mobile commercial featuring a well choreographed flash mob dancing to a funky medly of popular tunes at Liverpool Station in the UK. Very cool, but still.

Now on to the main point. On November 13, 2010, shoppers ate lunch at a mall food court in Ontario, Canada. They could choose the usual fare: Arby’s, Subway, Golden Wok. Then this phenomenal thing happened, where first one person, then another, then a few more, rose from their seats and, seemingly spontaneously, launched into a rousing performance of the  Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. I imagine myself being there – just an average, middle-age guy at a mall food court, doing my own thing, unaware of the spike-haired 20-something guy at a nearby table, comfortably disinterested in the woman herding her children, almost hoping to avoid human contact. And then, I notice.

First, I notice the performers who pour so much of themselves into this moment. I used to think classical music was for old fuddy-duddies. But when I was 20, I dated a woman who was a classical voice student, and I learned that all music is the voice of all ages. So I notice the ages, genders and ethnicities of these talented people; and I imagine they don’t all share the same religion. And yet here they are,  all doing this one thing together, which has required such sacrifice and commitment for all of them to be able to make their voices as instruments and to be able to do it so well. I mean, how could a modern, young, attractive woman be interested in the same kind of music as a fat, old bearded guy, much less how could her love of this ancient music be so great that she would have worked as hard as that old grey-beard to master her craft?

I notice the proper looking lady with the perfectly coiffed hair in a color of blond that is the contemporary equivalent of the old-school blue hair of my grandmother’s era. I imagine she plays bridge at the club with her lady-friends while they chat politely. Then I think of the guy who was the second to stand and be outed in this performance – a slightly scruffy looking, maybe somewhat awkward young man wearing a hoodie.  I cannot help but be struck that these two superficially dissimilar people share the same love of the same music.

Then I start to notice the people who are being treated to this unexpected gift of music: the “audience.” For the most part, they are stunned by what’s going on. The expressions on their faces encompass a range from drop-jawed disbelief to giddiness, from confusion to bliss, from near annoyance to quiet pleasure.

There’s a young woman with her son. She seems to be aware of and grateful for the significance of the moment. Her young son, as familiar as he may be with MTV, Wii, and Justin Bieber, he’s paying rapt, pleased attention to the event unfolding before his eyes. I wonder what he told his friends about what happened at the mall.

And a decidedly contemporary young man who hadn’t shaved in a few days – probably a banker taking a day off to do some shopping at the mall – watched the whole thing, almost with longing in his eyes. I wonder, was he enjoying the music and the singularity of the experience or was he admiring one of the attractive young women whose voices fill the air with such grace and power.

Then the boy of 8 or 10, who might have been whining before lunch for just the right kind of Gap sweatshirt, is nothing less than entranced by the moment. He looks aware that this may be a holiday memory that he spends the rest of his life knowing that it will never get any better than this and that even Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer lost just a bit of luster this day. Yet, strangely, that’s perfectly okay. A moment later, his mother took his hand in hers, and he grasped hers back as if it were the most natural thing ever.

There it was, this one moment when so much was so right. Here these people were minding their own business, hardly mindful of anything beyond their own little bubbles of personal space. And then this event, this music, lifted everybody’s focus to something bigger, something beyond the bubble, something good…even if just for a moment. Merry Christmas!

See for yourself….

Food Court Flash Mob

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Ashe Lockhart – Principal

Ashe Lockhart
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