I baked my first batch of Christmas cookies over a week ago, and most of the shopping is done because we don't exchange a lot of gifts, but it was this past weekend that really kicked off the holiday.
My back is better behaved—I still walk like your great-aunt Marge when I first get up out of a chair, but beyond that, I'm fine—so I made the rehearsals for the orchestra's Christmas concert. The first one was Friday evening. While I was there, Husband and Eustacia bought a tree for the family room, a real tree to replace the fake one we usually use. When I got home at the end of the evening, the entire house smelled of pine, and it was a welcomed greeting.
Saturday morning, I strung the tree with lights, beaded garland, red ribbon and the anchor ornaments—you know, the plain gold balls that fill in the gaps between the more interesting ornaments. Eustacia wanted to help finish it, so I had to wait until she woke up, and that girl sleeps until noon.
Saturday afternoon, I went to another rehearsal, and then Sunday evening we performed the annual holiday concert. Musically, this is never the most challenging or the most spectacular of our concerts, but emotionally it is sometimes the most rewarding. We don't fill all the seats in the auditorium, but we do have an enthusiastic and festive bunch of people who join us. When I sit on stage knowing I am part of such a holiday event, I feel downright communal.
We performed Jupiter from The Planets again because Jupiter is the bringer of jollity. Get it? Then we played Christmas Eve Music written by Schoenberg and orchestrated by Conductor Eric, Dance of the Comedians, Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride, and two Bizet pieces—Carillon and March of the Three Kings.
As is tradition, a local pharmacist provides punch and cookies in the lobby during the intermission. This man is perennial. A staple in Small Town and beyond. And when in public, he wears the most unusual hats you can imagine. This time around, he simply wore a Santa hat and then poured the punch.
After that, a children's chorus joined us on stage for a selection of songs that drip with charm. One in particular that we play every year is Here In My House with opposing lyrics that aren't actually opposing. Some kids sing about Christmas in their house while the others sing about Hanukkah in theirs, and they join in the end to wish good things to everyone side by side. It's lovely and makes you wish just singing a song like that could provide unity and mutual respect, and you wish living in a multi-cultural world were that simple.
Then the kids sang Night of Silence in their sweetest voices:
Voice in the distance, call in the night,
On wind you enfold us, you speak of the light,
Gentle on the ear you whisper softly,
Rumors of a dawn so embracing,
Breathless love awaits darkened souls,
Soon will we know of the morning.
with the strings accompanying them. And underneath it all, the rest of us and the audience hummed the tune to Silent Night, which blended beautifully. And I had to wipe my eyes. Just beautiful. One of the most vivid memories I have of my father is of his singing Silent Night in our living room on Christmas Eve. He loved Christmas and singing, and he managed to make up bass parts for just about anything. Silent Night was one of his favorites.
We finished off the concert with this fun song we perform every year with one of the older kids doing the hand motions. Sometimes you can see me playing the offbeats in the back row just over the conductor's left shoulder:
Well, after all of that, we went home, and while Husband settled in for some quiet TV in one room, Eustacia and I finished the tree and watched the old Rankin and Bass Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer in the other. And now I am thoroughly in holiday mode and can wish everyone a holly, jolly Christmas.