Saturday, December 11, 2010

Flash mobbing

Saturday, 11 December

Today the flagship Nordstrom store hosted a flash mob performance of the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah by the Seattle Symphony Chorale and a host of other local choirs. It was not very "flash," but it was definitely "mobbed." The non-event was supposed to be top secret, but I'm sure each of the 500+ singers told 10 people (thanks, Brandon, for the tip!).

I got there at T minus 25 minutes and you could hardly walk around the main floor of the store. Since I average less than one trip downtown per year, I thought maybe this was normal for a Saturday in the Christmas season. Until I heard people asking "is there some star here?" and "are they all standing in line for something?"

Exactly on time and according to the described plan, the piano tinkled out an upper-register version of "Deck the Halls." Out came cameras and phones--and sheet music. With absolutely no ado, the pianist moved into Handel's work and the singers sang. From the spot I staked out, I could not see maestro Gerard Schwarz (he's featured in the video in the Seattle Times link below). What I could see, though, were singers going up and down on the escalators (which you don't see in the pro video link), some poor shoppers just trying to go about their shopping with no clue what was going on, and of course all the phones and cameras raised above the mob.

The work iself is pretty short. The singers got nice applause when it was done, and that was it. No un-ado. Good thing no one invited the Seattle Fire Department--it took ages for the mob to dissipate. One poor guy working his way into the store was so disappointed to see us all moving toward the doors and said "I'm too late?!"

In the Irish idiom, it was brilliant. It was art, religious art, in a highly commercialized setting. It was a cooperative, voluntary effort of the music community. Maybe it was disappointing that so many of the people there were not surprised by what happened (the missing "flash" part), but how amazing that they all wanted to be there. The Messiah is Easter music, but this was definitely a Christmas experience.

Here's the professional report:

And here's a clip of my iPhone video:

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