Thursday, December 4, 2008

Songs of the Season

Christmas is fast approaching. For some, this means holiday shopping and frenzied preparations for company of all stripes---friends, relatives, loved ones, barely-tolerated ones...and, in many cases, people you would just as soon avoid, but will try to put up with for the sake of peace in the family.

For musicians, however, Christmas means concerts. (Well...for some it means money as well; holiday church services are always in need of starving musicians to play for the congregation. Well-fed musicians are less likely to show up for a midnight mass or sunrise service). And for most of my life, I've been part of some Christmas concert or other---from Miss Vukmirovich's choruses at Bulman Elementary to the present.

To most people, Christmas concerts mean Christmas music: well-loved carols and songs of the season not only make the season bright, they also warm hearts longing for simpler, happier times. But that's from the perspective of the audience---the people actually paying to sit and listen. For most musicians, Christmas music poses few challenges---and, for some Scrooge impersonators who somehow learned to carry a tune, Christmas music is just oh-so-trite-and-passe.... So, as in many other pursuits, many musical snobs turn up their nose at the familar, and trend toward the unusual or unconventional. Thus...we sometimes have Christmas concerts with little, if any, relation to Christmas, other than a few verses in Latin, and maybe one or two carols thrown in to appease the masses.

This year, I'm singing with the Madonna Chorale, as I have been for the past two years. Last year, I was tapped for solo work; this year, I get to relax. But our director (Dr. Dave Wagner) has managed to pull together a concert that should be able to satisfy the snobs as well as the peasants. We have a few well-known Christmas songs in the mix, as well as some unusual arrangements of old and traditional songs by Benjamin Britten and Gustav Holst. The collection is eclectic, but not "outre," and should provide a little something for all musical tastes.

If, that is, we manage to pull things together: one additional aspect of musicians that often passes unnoticed is that we tend to work to deadlines---the deadline being walk-on time for our concert. And we always seem to find ourselves a week or two short on rehearsals.

I think this is something they teach in conducting classes...and it tends not to be kind to weak stomachs at this time of year. But it does make things exciting.

And it does tend to spice up our dress rehearsals....

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