A Thing I Look Forward to All Year

This Sunday will be the Epiphany service at the Methodist church the next town over. “Lessons and Carols” is a collection of just about every musician for three counties ’round packing out the big, beautiful, Norman-esque Norton church to do Christmas music. (No, the Normans didn’t reach Wise County in the Middle Ages, but some architects apparently sent missionaries.)

I look forward to this event–held the third Sunday in January–all year. Maybe it’s because it comes after the crush is over; most of the tinsel and glitter are out of the floorboard cracks; lawn decorations sit in boxes at the base of attic stairs. It’s January: cold, bleak, emotionally exhausted and financially drained January. We may as well sing together as face Winter alone.

And there’s just something about Christmas carols, when you don’t have to think about all the other stuff surrounding the holidays, that goes straight into your veins. When you can really hear them, their messages are exhilarating.

Musicians dust off sheet music and embrace hastily-cobbled partnerships–bluegrass trio, classical harpist, brass ensemble, unaccompanied folk singers and all. The music at Lessons and Carols doesn’t change much. Sometimes the strolling guitar team does Joy to the World instead of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. The violin quartet moves between Handel and Mendelssohn.  There aren’t many surprises.

So few that, in the four years Jack and I have been singing at this event, I’ve developed trigger points. When our neighbor David–his wife Heather works at our store and he heads the college music department–leads his choir into Little Drummer Boy, no matter how I steel myself, I go to mush. The thrumming, sobbing, opening bass notes, followed by all those black-clad quiet voices in blended harmony, “Come, they told me….”

A little boy soprano always sings the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City, before the congregation joins in. One pure small voice soaring through that high-ceilinged church, then everyone rumbling forward more-or-less together with “Jesus is our childhood pattern….”

I’ve learned to wear something with pockets and pack them with tissues.

Jack wonders why I like this event so much.  Musically,  it’s all over the place. It’s predictable, and long–now grown to two and a half hours PLUS prelude music. The benches are uncomfortable. We even do that hackneyed candle thing with the lights out.

Ah, but “come, they told me…..”

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4 Comments

Filed under folklore and ethnography, small town USA, Uncategorized

4 responses to “A Thing I Look Forward to All Year

  1. Jessica Williams

    I’ll be sad to miss it this year. Sniff.

  2. Paula Welch

    Oh Holy Night done acapella . There is one version of it that gives me chills and tears to think of it.

    • I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it without harp or piano; I will keep an ear out next year. Another one that does for me, and it sounds lame but you have to hear it, is Roger Whittaker doing Angels We Have Heard on High. That man’s voice singing “Gloria” could carry stone pillars yet melt rock.

      And while anyone doing Little Drummer Boy makes me weepy, Bob Seeger’s rules, eh?

  3. Kathy

    my favorite thing to do during Christmas is to sing carols or go caroling with friends. I think caroling in January would be uplifting during the winter solstice. It would be like singing for spring time to not be far off.

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