There is a delightful story in Sir Herbert Brewer’s Autobiography Choirs and Cloisters which was published in 1931.
In December of 1927 the Bristol Choral Society gave their annual performance of Messiah at the Colston Hall, Bristol. Brewer had the idea of inviting the audience to join in with the Hallelujah Chorus. The idea was received by ‘wiser’ heads with some trepidation. However things turned out well:-
“I can only say thank-you. I think it is safe to say nothing has ever been heard like that in this country before.” said Sir Herbert Brewer, greatly moved by what had just occurred, to an audience of over three thousand at Colston Hall, Bristol, on Saturday night.
Sir Herbert has announced previously that he would ask the audience to rise and join in singing the Hallelujah Chorus.
As a result of this the greater portion of the audience brought with them copies of the [qv] Messiah. He asked those who knew the chorus and intended singing to do so with the reference due to so great a work.
With the society’s chorus of 400, a full orchestra and the Colston Hall orchestra – one of the finest in the country – the audience sang in perfect harmony. Sopranos, contraltos, tenors and basses, in all parts of the hall, sang their respective parts. Perfect time was kept, and so impressive was the rendering that many were in tears.
The climax came before the final Hallelujah. There was a silence while Sir Herbert held his baton aloft for a second or two; then the four final chords crashed out with wonderful effect. Sir Herbert Brewer’s daring experiment had been justified.