Kansas City — As mobs go, it possibly was the most massive and musical in Kansas City history.
Even George Frideric Handel would have stood for this Christmastime performance, when at least 450 people, and perhaps many more — young, old, most of them strangers, and beckoned solely by word-of-mouth or e-mail to Crown Center — erupted among unsuspecting shoppers into an echoing and unrehearsed “choir flash mob” rendition of the “Hallelujah Chorus.”
“How could you not be in the Christmas mood after that?” an elated Carol Havenner, 57, of Olathe said after the music ebbed.
Worldwide, choir flash mobs have become a sensation, ever since May when commuters in a Brussels train station suddenly found themselves in the middle of a giant choral rendition of “I Want to Ride my Bicycle,” sung in multipart harmony with some singers acrobatically bouncing on the back tires of their bicycles up the station’s steps.
Since them, choir flash mobs, mostly singing the “Hallelujah Chorus,” have broken out in cities worldwide, including just this weekend in stores and malls and airports in Dallas, Orlando and Sioux Falls, S.D. Barely a minute after 2 p.m. Sunday, it was Kansas City’s turn.
The brainchild of the event was Mission Hills resident Ann Sundeen, 48. A choir member when she was in high school and college, and currently singing at Visitation Church, Sundeen devised what she called a “random act of choral music” after viewing a choir flash mob video from Philadelphia. So she talked to her choir and e-mailed friends, all of whom did the same.
Sue Tucker, 58, a massage therapist from Overland Park, heard about the event two days ago from a client, who heard about it from a friend.
“I couldn’t get it off my mind,” Tucker said. “It’s my favorite song in the whole world.” It holds special memories for her. She said that for years, she and her father, now deceased, used to travel to Lindsborg, Kan., to hear Handel’s “Messiah.”
What was meant to remain a secret among shoppers turned out to be anything but.
By 1:30 p.m., Crown Center was mobbed with singers, many holding sheet music. As 2 o’clock ticked closer, people held their cell phones and digital cameras aloft to catch the moment.
A band, Bill Drybread and his Merry Men of Christmas, had been on stage playing “Joy to the World” when, just before 2 p.m., anticipation grew. The band ceded the stage. Seth Farrow, 32, a Visitation choir member, stepped up. Nick Bideler, 24, and Jonathan Gregoire, 23, music graduate students at the University of Kansas, sat side-by-side at the piano.
Farrow raised his hands. The throng rose to its feet. The music, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! King of kings and lord of lords” echoed throughout the mall.
Three minutes later it was over. Captured by a professional videographer, a YouTube version of the event titled “A Random Act of Choral Music Kansas City” is expected to be posted by today.
“My hope is that we will touch the hearts of shoppers and whoever sees it on YouTube,” Sundeen said just before the performance. “It’s been such a hard year for a lot of people.”
On the third floor, one woman, overcome, cupped her face in her hands and wept. When the piece ended, the massive crowd cheered.