By Joanne Hatherly
When more than 300 singers erupted into O Holy Night at Victoria's Bay Centre on an otherwise ordinary Saturday afternoon, one bewildered shopper asked, "Where is the choir?" "They're everywhere," came an answer from inside the crowd.
In early December, Barb Schindel, Colwood Pentecostal Church's worship director, was talking with her husband about a video that captured about 100 shoppers in a Welland, Ontario mall food court who suddenly burst into an operatic performance of Handel's Messiah. The mall had been 'flash-mobbed.'
Flash mobs are large groups of people who assemble without warning to do something unusual. The performance usually last only a few minutes, after which the participants disperse into the crowd. Schindel's husband turned to her and said, "We could do that".
She didn't think so, but she happily admits she was wrong. On Dec. 18 at 2 p.m., with a little help from area churches and choirs, and through a Facebook site invitation, as many as 400 people showed up at the Bay Centre mall and gave Victoria shoppers a beautiful reminder of the real meaning of Christmas.
The group had the opportunity to rehearse twice - first at the mall, where they were allowed inside after hours on Sunday before the event, and then again at Gateway Baptist Church on the morning of the event. More than 200 people showed up at the rehearsals, giving Schindel confidence that something special was going to happen.
At 2 p.m., after the Bay Tower clock bells chimed, Schindel opened with O Holy Night and soon the air was filled with what seemed like a heavenly chorus as hundreds of singers over the mall's four balcony levels joined in.
After five minutes and 31 seconds, the singers closed with a verse from Silent Night, leaving the mall's atmosphere changed from harried to relaxed, with shoppers smiling and chatting over what they had just seen. It's hard to keep a secret with more than 300 singers in on the act, but even the mall's retail workers expressed shock.
Oak Bay Mayor Christopher Causton was one of the singers. Calling the experience "incredible," Causton was left wanting more. "I was just warming up. Are we going to do it again?," Causton said.
Click here to see a participant video that has been uploaded to YouTube.