Sunday, November 7, 2010

Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, Liturgically Correct

Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah can be a guilty pleasure. It's beautiful, poetic, and rich with Biblical symbology,  yet the lyrics are ambiguous to say the least. Which is why Kelly Mooney, a singer/songwriter/musician from Charlottetown, wasn't sure about singing it at Easter Mass when her parish priest asked her to.

Instead, she decided to adapt the song's lyrics to the Easter story. Then, she bravely asked Cohen's publishers for permission to perform the revised version. They granted her request, and she's now preparing a CD that will include the piece.

Here is the world video premiere of the revised song, sung by Mooney and accompanied by the Chorale Voce dell' Anima led by Monette Gould  June 1, 2010, at the Monument Lefebvre in Memramcook, N.B.

If you want to hear more of Kelly Mooney, here's her MySpace page.


  1. Why doesn't she write her own song with her own lyrics about the Easter story instead?
    If the original song with its original lyrics don't serve the purpose you need it to, why use it all?
    Unless you're lazy...

    1. The music itself is gorgeous, and so many people's hearts are touched when the Hallelujah is sung. The original lyrics are from a doubter's point of view, but there is a conversion process in the original as well. There are actually many people who want to express their faith by rewriting the lyrics to Hallelujah.

    2. As I think the OP stated, the priest asked for that music. the problem was the lyrics, so she adapted in order to make use of a beautiful musical composition in a way that is both appropriate for the occasion (ie in church) and impactful for the listener. That's not laziness, that's creativity and ministry.

  2. A few clicks and you have the answers, directly from her MySpace page:

    "I re-wrote the lyrics at the request of our parish priest who wanted the Hallelujah at Easter Mass. The original lyrics, though incredible, are not really appropriate for church, and one just doesn't say no to a priest, so I re-wrote the lyrics for Easter Mass and was granted a lyrical adaptation from Leonard Cohen's publisher for the right to present it..." - from Kelly Mooney's Myspace page

    Unless you're lazy...

  3. The original lyrics aren't appropriate for church? The story is straight out of the bible? So the bible isn't appropriate for church? It's just an Old testament story not an Easter story. It could be used in bible study or when the "story" comes up in the lectionary.

  4. Granted, I am not an expert on the Bible, but PLEASE tell me which verses in the Bible this refers to?:

    There was a time when you let me know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show it to me, do you?
    And remember when I moved in you
    The holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

    It does not sound very biblical to me. It actually sounds like nothing that needs to be sung in Church!

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  6. Actually the lyrics were re-written:

    Hallelujah (Lyrics re-written by Kelley Mooney)

    A crown of thorns placed on his head
    he knew that he would soon be dead.
    He said, “did you forget me father, did you?”
    They nailed him to a wooden cross,
    soon all the world would feel the loss
    of Christ the king before us,
    Hallelujah, (+4)

    He hung his head and prepared to die,
    then lifted his face up to the sky.
    He said, “I am coming home now father to you.”
    A reed which held his final sip
    was gently lifted to his lips.
    He drank his last and gave his soul to glory.
    Hallelujah, (+3)

    The soldier who had used his sword
    to pierce the body of our lord
    said “truly this was Jesus Christ our savior.”
    He looked with fear upon his sword,
    then turned to face his Christ and lord,
    fell to his knees crying
    hallelujah, (+4)

    Took from his head the thorny crown
    and wrapped him in a linen gown,
    then laid him down to rest inside the tomb.
    The wholes in his hands, his feet, his side,
    now in our hearts we know he died
    to save us from ourselves.
    Oh hallelujah, (+4)

    Three days went by, again they came
    to move the stone, to bless the slain
    with oil and spice anointing, hallelujah.
    But as they went to move the stone
    they saw that they were not alone
    for Jesus Christ has risen,

  7. You are certainly not lazy!! it would have been easier to write your own song I think but you have done a beautiful job of the lyrics to this one and made it suit singing in church. It captures the sheer passion and feeling of Kohen's lyric (beauty in despair) that is the likely reason your priest liked the song.

  8. I love this version! This is the way it should have been written. It touches my soul!

  9. Your version, Kelley, is beautiful! I love the music of Cohen's song, but I'm not crazy about the lyrics. Yours, and also Cloverton's, are stirring and bring tears to one's eyes. So now we have a beautiful song all the way around! Good job.

  10. If Elton John can change the words to fit priness Di in candle in the wind then I think this song can be changed for easter. I thing it was done awesome for the lord.

  11. Is hallelujah appropriate for church though?

  12. People have been re-purposing secular melodies with religious and spiritual lyrics for hundreds of years. How many hymns use Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" melody? "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee," "Alleluia, Alleluia." How about these old favorites? "Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!," Charles Wesley's "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" and "Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus." All have the same tune, "Hyfrydol." This is really nothing new.


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