Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas--It's All About the Music

It’s still a couple of days before Christmas and like many others, I am by now extremely weary of the incessant clang of that which passes for “Christmas music” assaulting my ears. Each year a local radio station goes to 24/7 Christmas music just after Thanksgiving.

Sometimes I think if I have to hear Andy Williams or Burl Ives one more time that I’ll go ballistic. I can take about 2 hours of it at work—unfortunately a lot of days at work are 12 hours long.

But, to me, Christmas has always been, more than anything else, about music. Over the years I have performed Christmas music in school choirs, church choirs, in informal groups, in quartets, solo in my car along to favorite recordings and sometimes out of either loneliness or a desire to express what’s hiding deep inside yearning to come out.

I’ve sung fun, silly Christmas songs to my children. I’ve listened as a child to my Dad singing snatches of his favorite Gene Autry Christmas music. I’ve sung solos before church congregations as part of a Cantata. I’ve sung as a member of a congregation in a boisterous basso or a haunting tenor depending on the carol being sung.

It’s hard to describe in writing how the music has moved me and been part of me over the decades of my life. Twenty years ago, I was working in the Detroit area as a business executive. My family had yet to join me and still lived in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Our office closed as usual on Christmas Eve and I was driving the 500 miles back to Wisconsin to spend Christmas and New Years with my family. I had done the drive previously and knew to go to my apartment after work, take a nap and start the drive about 9 or 10 p.m. and drive through the night. That way I would miss the traffic of both Detroit and Chicago.

It was about 1 a.m. and I was driving across the short stretch of Indiana that leads into the southern portion of Chicago. It seemed as though mine was the only vehicle on the interstate highway—there weren’t even any semis rolling along.

The radio was on and playing Christmas music. The next selection came up. “For Unto Us A Child Is Born” from Handel’s “Messiah”. This is my absolute favorite piece of music from the “Messiah”—especially at Christmas. The purity of the opening phrase from the Sopranos always moves me. Done well, it’s a sound like crystal.

I slowed my car. Then I pulled over onto the shoulder. I cranked up the stereo as loud as it would go. The night was pitch dark out in the Indiana countryside—glowing with stars. I got out of the car and stood on the shoulder, the radio blaring and I sang. I sang from my heart and soul. Better than the many times that I had performed this piece of music from a church choir loft. I was amazed that I remembered the bass part without the benefit of the sheet music and I let my voice soar tears streaming down my face.

When it was over, I got back in my car and finished my drive arriving home at about 7 a.m. to a house filled with Christmas and children and love.

I miss singing at Christmas. Interesting but a couple of years ago, I happened across a CD that refreshed and made Christmas music new again. It’s the Bare Naked Ladies Christmas album. Here’s a song from it.

I guess as long as we have the music in our hearts, we'll have Christmas.

1 comment:

  1. Wally, as long as I have known you I never knew you to be a singer? Sorry I misses that aspect of you. ENJOYED YOUR WRITTING.