A season of three KINGs

Piers writes:

My wife sings in a choir and tells me that hearing singing is nowhere near as good as doing it. She considers it exercise. She can sing the word 'Alleluia' for hours, and some of her music uses only that word!<

Hallelujah! It's a singer's paradise. Alleluia! So much in one word.

❚ Hallelujah! "Praise Ye the Lord" in Hebrew ("Hallelu-," praise you all; "-Yah," Yahweh, the Lord.)

❚ Hallelujah! The most famous chorus from Handel's "Messiah."

❚ Hallelujah! A sound that survives the distortions of foreign accents, even the French.

❚ Alleluia! A section of the Proper of the Roman Mass.

❚ Hallelujah! A word so joyous that it's saved until Easter and, therefore, unutterable during Lent.

❚ "Hallelujah," a song by Leonard Cohen covered by endless singers.

❚ Hallelujah! A word you'll hear a lot on 98.1 KING-FM during the Christmas season.

❚ Hallelujah! A football club from South Korea.

A pleasurable experience

But let's go back to Christmas music, and what this word holds for singers.

Pleasure is what it holds - physical pleasure.

Composers love how it sounds, and singers love how it feels. In Latin, where the vowels are pure, there is a beautiful symmetry to what the mouth traverses. Al-le-LU-ia.

I liken it to the visit of the three Kings from the Bible, through the door of the manger. Each King is a vowel, and the manger door is the consonant L, which behaves less like a front door and more like the swinging flap of a pet door, conveniently enough for this manger metaphor.

King A arrives with the sound of the swaddled babe, open and innocent: Ahhh. The flap of the pet door announces King Ehhh, who is higher in bearing, at least in tongue terms.

So we have Ah - leh, and then that L flips again. But this next King has to squeeze through the pet door. You see, he's on the corpulent side, with his old-world U sound of "loom."

Lip-forward, round-cheeked King "OO" has a heavy tongue, too, that drops back in the throat. He joins A and EH, after his indulgent OO, they look at each other, realize no other Kings are coming through the pet door, then look in unison at the swaddled infant and say the only possible wise King thing: Yah!

Hallelujah to the symmetry of the open-sound "ah" on each end, and the dark "oo" center. It sounds almost identical in all language, and is written either with or without the H.

Among the Romanized languages, probably Estonian comes closest to how a singer should enjoy its sound: Halleluuja! That double "uu" underscores not only the meter of the word (short-short-LONG-short) but the extension of the gorgeous U sound.

A singer's breathing must be even more supported during these quiet, dark vowels, or they simply disappear. But what glory when you balance them right.

Lift your own voice and sing

Three Kings walk through a pet door and miracles happen: Choirs form. Puget Sound sings.

With the Christmas Ship Festival showcasing so many choirs on Lake Washington ports of call, and all the concerts of Handel's "Messiah," Northern Lights, Festivals of Lessons and Carols, handbell and brass choirs, this is a vortex of Christmas cheer.

Lift your voice with them, and just see if you can stay out of that choir you dream of joining for another year. You have to feel it!

If you're still more into listening than singing, I have three Kings to propose to you: KING 98.1 FM, King.org worldwide, and the Christmas Channel, our newest digital hi-definition radio channel at KING 98.1 FM HD2.

Sean MacLean can be heard weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. on king.org and 98.1 KING-FM. Send your questions to SeanM@King.org.

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