ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Well, now to one flash mob that did not fizzle. Yesterday afternoon at the Crown Center shopping center in Kansas City, a few hundred singers gathered and, to the evident surprise of some holiday shoppers who were not in on the act, broke into song.
Unidentified People: (Singing) Hallelujah (Unintelligible).
SIEGEL: This surprise mass performance of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "The Messiah" is the latest in a trend. On October 30th, the Opera Company of Philadelphia organized a hallelujah moment at Macy's with support from the Knight Foundation's Random Acts of Culture program. And video of that event, which has been viewed many millions of times, has inspired others, including, it seems, Ann Sundeen of Mission Hills, Kansas. Welcome to the program.
Ms. ANN SUNDEEN: Thank you.
SIEGEL: And you organized the Kansas City event. Why?
Ms. SUNDEEN: I sing with the Visitation Catholic Church choir, and a number of members of our church had seen the video on YouTube and thought it would be fun to give it a go here in Kansas City. So it just took someone to pick the date and time and see who would show up.
SIEGEL: And how did you go about inviting - I've seen the number of 450 singers mentioned. But how did you get all these folks invited?
Ms. SUNDEEN: Well, I started with about 20 people from my church choir, and once I had that, I thought we had critical mass. And then our choir director sent out to her contact list. So we invited those people, and they invited their friends and so on and so on. We also used Facebook.
SIEGEL: Now I gather that the people who arrived at the Crown Center had - they had sheet music. This wasn't - this couldn't have been completely shocking when they finally began singing.
Ms. SUNDEEN: Initially, it was intended to be more stealthy than it was. We didn't intend to have people with sheet music. We also didn't really know that we would have 450 people. Initially, we were worried about having enough people to pull it off.
Obviously, there was a great outpouring of enthusiasm from our community.
SIEGEL: And the plan was I guess just around 2:00 in the afternoon to break into song?
Ms. SUNDEEN: Right.
SIEGEL: You had a - there is a piano, I gather, at the Crown Center.
Ms. SUNDEEN: There is a piano, and there was a little combo playing. But I had made arrangements prior, with the Crown Center management, to have my accompanist take over the piano at a little bit before two.
Ms. SUNDEEN: So he played a little Christmas carol, and then he broke into the Hallelujah Chorus.
SIEGEL: And did the 450-or-so singers who had gathered there, did they outnumber the other shoppers, or were they an equal number? What would you say?
Ms. SUNDEEN: About 1:15 or 1:30, you could start to see people standing around, looking as if they weren't shopping and they weren't eating. They were waiting for something. So it wasn't as secret as we had hoped.
And there were a few people passing through who were caught unawares, but I think that the majority of people there had an inkling that something was about to happen.
SIEGEL: Now, it only takes, what is it, about four to six minutes or so to sing the Hallelujah Chorus. People came and gathered at the Crown Center in Kansas City. Did they all just leave right away, or did they all go buy video games and things like that, sit down and have lunch? What was the day like?
Ms. SUNDEEN: Well, there was a bit of an urge to keep singing. But we hadn't really planned for that many people, and we hadn't really planned to continue singing. So I asked the accompanist to play some more carols.
But by that point, everybody was so excited. They'd applauded. They were talking. And there was really no way to corral the forces again and do any kind of an organized caroling session afterwards.
So if we do it again, when we do it again, we'll have to plan that part of it.
SIEGEL: Well, Ann Sundeen of Mission Hills, Kansas, thank you very much for talking with us.
Ms. SUNDEEN: Thank you.
(Soundbite of music)
Unidentified People: (Singing) (Unintelligible).
SIEGEL: Ann Sundeen is a member of the Visitation Catholic Church choir and organizer of yesterday's choral flash mob in Kansas City, Missouri.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.