Alisa Hankins was moved to tears by an experience Saturday morning in the food court of the Quail Springs Mall.
Hankins, an Oklahoma City resident, almost didn't go to the mall. A friend heard rumors about something big that was supposed to happen and persuaded Hankins to drag herself out of bed the morning after finals.
Hankins said she would have been disappointed if she hadn't.
Hundreds of people started gathering near the food court just before noon. Some chattered, excited for what would come. Others, who were there to eat, were bewildered. They shot strange glances at the people who surrounded them and lined the balconies on both levels that overlook the food court area.
The mumbles and excitement grew as minutes passed.
About 12:30 p.m., a keyboard cut through the noise. That was the cue. It was followed by a chorus of â€œHallelujahsâ€ as hundreds of people joined in singing the Hallelujah Chorus from George Frideric Handel's â€œMessiah.â€
Surprised shoppers stopped to listen. Many raised their arms above their heads to take photos or worship.
The event was over within a few minutes, but the excitement lingered.
Similar flash-mob singing events have taken place at malls in other states this holiday season. Videos of those events have generated buzz on the Internet.
Rhonda Bigalow of Moore, and her sister, Dee Rushing of Oklahoma City, came after hearing about the planned concert on social media sites and on the radio. Bigalow said she saw similar concerts on her friend's Facebook page and on YouTube and she wanted to experience the event firsthand.
Carol Sander, a member of the Westminster Presbyterian Choir, helped start the Oklahoma City event. She sent an e-mail to some friends after her friend, Vicki Gourley, suggested the idea. The news became viral.
Sander said she was amazed by the number of people who showed up Saturday.
â€œWe wanted to do it as a gift to the shoppers,â€ Sander said. â€œI could see they were really loving it.â€
Like many participants, Jay Albrink of Oklahoma City had no idea who started the event. He got an e-mail from a woman at his church and decided to bring his music score.
â€œI hope it was an uplifting experience,â€ Albrink said.
Behind him, food vendors took photos with their phones.
Will Moore of Oklahoma City brought his daughters to the mall after hearing about the event.
â€œ(I came) just to be a part of the live version of what's going around on the Internet right now,â€ Moore said. â€œThe common denominator of the song and the words and music is just a refreshing and uplifting thing to see and be a part of this year with everything else going on.â€
Jennifer Addington of Edmond was part of the chorus. She sings alto in the Canterbury Choral Society. Addington said Saturday's mall experience was better than a normal concert.
â€œThat felt so good,â€ Addington said. â€œTo have the audience all around you and everyone feeling this and enjoying it together. I was saying that we'll do all our concerts in the food court here if everybody will come like this.â€
Hankins, who came with her friend's family and her 13-year-old son, Jamie, said the music gave her hope.
â€œIt's just beautiful that so many people can come together out of the blue and create beauty in an ordinary place,â€ Hankins said. â€œI was amazed.â€
Will Moore of Oklahoma City:
"(I came) just to be a part of the live version of what's going around on the Internet right now. The common denominator of the song and the words and music is just a refreshing and uplifting thing to see and be a part of this year with everything else going on. I think that thread of the music and the emotion of the words seemed appealing and really needed right now."
Jennifer Addington of Edmond:
â€œMy God. That felt so good. To have the audience all around you and everyone feeling this and enjoying it together. I was saying that we'll do all our concerts in the food court here if everybody will come like this!"
Addington, who sings alto with the Canterbury Choral Society, said the choir had previously performed a concert of the music from â€œMessiah,â€ including the song sung Saturday.
â€œBut this feels so much more organic. People are here because they wanted to, they didn't have to dress up, and they're a part of it. ... And this is classical music! We didn't sing â€œFrosty the Snowman!â€ It proves that it's accessible to everyone. Look how many people worked hard and fought through the parking lot to be here.â€