Messiah gives you chills?

Choristers from Salisbury Cathedral

Choristers from Salisbury Cathedral

One of the stories in the news today is an article on how music can affect you in such a way as to give you chills.

Quoting from the article, “Musical chills, write the authors from the University of North Carolina, are “sometimes known as aesthetic chills, thrills, shivers, frisson, and even skin orgasms [who knew?] … and involve a seconds-long feeling of goose bumps, tingling, and shivers, usually on the scalp, the back of the neck, and the spine, but occasionally across most of the body.”

The scientific explanation for chills is that the emotions evoked by beautiful or meaningful music stimulate the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which controls primal drives such as hunger, sex and rage and also involuntary responses like blushing and goosebumps. When the song soars, your body can’t help but shiver.”

That feeling of shivering hasn’t happened to me often, since as a performer, I’m frequently making the music myself. But I can tell you that there are those unforgettable musical experiences which are somewhat like falling in love. There’s a definite chemical reaction which happens, and even the memory of such an experience can trigger the chills. One of those experiences definitely happened recently with our Monteverdi performances.

Marie-Claire Alain, organist.

Marie-Claire Alain, organist.

But another memorable musical experience happened many years ago when the world-famous organist Marie-Claire Alain came to the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. She was supposed to do an Interterm session for Southern Methodist University (where the late Robert T. Anderson was formerly the organ department head), but insufficient registrations caused the program to be cancelled. She came to Hawaii with her husband, anyway, and had a wonderful vacation. Bob Anderson brought her to the Lutheran Church of Honolulu to see the Beckerath organ and after a few minutes of him improvising, she scooted him off the bench and began to play. What happened in the next hour was one of those extraordinary times when time stands still and something reaches in and grabs your heart, giving a little squeeze. One of the pieces Marie-Claire played was Bach’s “Sei gegrüsset,” still one of my all-time favorites. It was a private recital for just the two of us, Carl and myself, and an experience we will both remember as long as we live.  What made the performance so memorable was how every note was special; she played not only with her hands and feet, she played with her heart. It gives me chills just thinking about it. Afterwards she told us that our organ was “one of the finest in North America.” Wow!

Back to Handel, a lot of people have asked Carl Crosier why he has not ever programmed Messiah at LCH. Oh, over the years we have sung certain movements from Messiah, including “O thou that tellest” and the famous “Hallelujah” Chorus (remember when Carl brought the choir in one beat TOO early! Good thing, most of them weren’t watching him!) And he’s sung the alto solo, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive,” many times. But as Carl says, the only way he’d do a complete Messiah is if he had an orchestra of period baroque instruments, because “everyone and their brother does Messiah.” There’s no need for him to do it, too.

There’s the answer for you.

About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
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6 Responses to Messiah gives you chills?

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