Final year for “Hallelujah Chorus” tradition

End of well-loved tradition brings both disappointment and opportunity

Some members of the DHS 1983-84 choir dressed and ready to sing in November 1983.

Wildcat Photo

Some members of the DHS 1983-84 choir dressed and ready to sing in November 1983.

Emma Klingler, Arts/Entertainment Editor

De Soto High School has had many traditions come and go in the 102 years since its establishment. For over 50 years, the DHS choir alumni has joined in singing George Frideric Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from Messiah. This took place during the winter choir concert, which was later merged with the winter band concert. This conjoined performance will no longer exist after this year due to the addition of the new theater. 

Choir director Mindy Fry spoke about the reasoning behind the discontinuation of this well-loved tradition. 

“The band and choir will no longer have their holiday concerts together because of the new theater,” Fry said. “It’s also very religious, and I know I have some kids who are not of that faith. I’m trying to be inclusive of all of my students.”

Mary Etta Copeland, the choir director preceding Fry, continued this tradition when she began teaching at DHS in 1976. 

“Its origin goes back well before my time which began around 54 years ago,” Copeland said. “Such a great piece of musical literature that will always be with us, and a real accomplishment for students and former students to get to perform.”

Many alumni have participated in singing and have loads of fond memories. 

“I loved this [tradition],” DHS 1979 alumnus Ken Stewart said. “It was so much fun to see the alumni come up and sing. It wasn’t just a school tradition, it was a De Soto tradition.”

DHS 1982 alumnus Richelle Hodges shares similar feelings regarding the tradition.

“The experience of joining in the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus has always been something that I enjoyed sharing in, especially when my own children were in the choir,” Hodges said. “Seeing friends from years past has been an added blessing.”

The discontinuation of this tradition is upsetting for many as they have participated in it for years. There are many aspects of it that were enjoyable for alumni. DHS 1984 alumnus Becky Gallagher has participated in this tradition 10 to 12 times since she graduated from DHS.

“When I was in high school, what I liked about it was that it opened my eyes to the piece of music that the Hallelujah Chorus comes from which is Handel’s Messiah,” Gallagher said. “It is a very difficult piece, which I really enjoyed being challenged to master. Once I had kids in high school, I enjoyed going to every Christmas concert and joining in with all the other alumni. The fact that it was still going when my daughter was in high school made me so happy.”

Gallagher is disappointed to hear that the tradition will no longer continue after this year, but she is glad to be able to participate in it one last time. She is upset when thinking of what the community will lose with the absence of this valued tradition.

“I am really sad about it being discontinued because the tradition is as old as I am. It connects the past with the present, keeps the alumni connected to the school and I think that there are ways to continue doing it,” Gallagher said. “It also makes me sad because especially with the older alumni who don’t have kids or a connection. Sometimes that was the one thing that kept them active within the school community.”

Although this tradition is being discontinued, Fry has plans to begin a new tradition in the upcoming years.

“I want to start a new closing song tradition that’s a lot easier,” Fry said. “The Hallelujah Chorus is very difficult. I’m hoping to start a new tradition that is more accessible to the community. I’m also excited to incorporate full aspects of our theater; cool lighting effects and processionals.”

With the end of an era comes the beginning of a new and exciting one. The band and choir departments of DHS are looking forward to the unique opportunities that the new theater will provide and how the community can be brought together with a new tradition that Fry will begin. The memories of the Hallelujah Chorus tradition will live on as will the impact that it has had on the community and DHS families.