Many of my friends on Facebook have been posting EE user cards (http://www.someecards.com/). The cards are a daily ‘funny’ that can be personally tailored to your own life. I saw one the other day that read: “Hooray it’s December! Oh wait… I’m a musician”. I laughed and laughed, but to be honest… it hit a little close to home.
For those of you that support us creative/music type at this time of year, you have our eternal gratitude and thanks! We often hear that we move our audiences to tears, bring them joy, hope, love and peace. However, there are occasions that musicians must work very hard at not seeing our concertizing as merely a ‘job’. Often, we have rehearsed the music (both conductors and ensemble members alike) for months. If we are not at a rehearsal, we are in a concert. If we are not in a concert, we are practicing. If we are not practicing we hope we find some time to get some sleep. And for those who conduct/direct, we have the extra jobs of secured venues, contracting musicians, creating posters, making programs, researching translations, holding extra rehearsals for soloists, sorted out concert attire, managing decorations, writing press releases and disseminating marketing etc…. etc…. etc….. The list goes on and on.
In the the middle of our music bustle, many of us also desire to participate in the fun of the season. It IS the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” after all! Musicians Christmas shop, cook, wrap, take our kids to see Santa and Christmas lights, decorate our homes and entertain (when there is time!). By the time you see us in a concert venue we are often wiped out from the holiday madness, and exhausted from our music preparations.
I admit, I’ve experienced a holiday ‘burn-out’ this year. So I’ve been trying to find ways to invigorate the Christmas spirit. My children and I put up the tree, but I wasn’t really in the mood to put up the rest of the decorations. I turned on Christmas music. However, it made me think of the myriad of concerts I was responsible for this season, so I turned it off. I baked the family favorite “Candy Cane Christmas Brownies” and my husband baked Gingerbread Cookies… but who needs a few extra pounds on the scale? Perhaps my problem was the weather? It was an average of 80 degrees here in Phoenix from Thanksgiving until December 13th … it just didn’t ‘feel’ like Christmas. So I thought to myself… what does Christmas feel like and what exactly am I missing?
In my pondering, I began to think about my childhood and a flood of Christmas memories came to the surface:
- The glittering lights of my childhood Christmas tree.
- A house visit from the ‘real’ Santa Claus.
- How quiet my neighborhood became under a blanket of snow.
- The smell and feel of cold crisp mountain winter air.
- A real pine Christmas tree.
- Endless hours of sledding down tall hills covered with snow.
- Moon boots!
- A homemade nativity pageant with my cousins under my grandmothers Christmas tree.
- Wassail (Utah Style… mostly juice and Christmas spices).
- An indoor wood-burning fire.
- The Temple Square lights.
- Putting our shoes out for Sinterklaas (my father is Dutch, so we celebrated that tradition).
- Baking Julekake (My mother is Norwegian. It is a Norwegian Christmas bread).
- My Grandma Stout’s beautiful tree and pretty Nativity set in angel hair.
- My Grandma Zeeman’s extraordinary cooking in her remote country home.
- A Christmas moon rising over the Wasatch Mountains at twilight.
- The magic and mystery of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.
- The long drive back home after a joyful day visiting cousins and grandparents and falling asleep in the car.
- The unquestioning belief and knowledge of the love my parents and grandparents had for me.
- A child’s faith in the story of Jesus’ birth.
I’m sure that over time the distance of my childhood diminishes the reality of that time, and frames instead pictures of a cheerful age. My family lived anything but a charmed life, as we were very poor and my father scraped by paycheck to paycheck keeping all eight of his children fed and clothed. However, I’m grateful that I have precious and happy memories of my childhood Christmases, as it’s my path in finding the Christmas Spirit this year.
Christmas as a baby.
Christmas when I was 16 months old.
Christmas with the cousins
Christmas Pageant with the cousins.
I think I’m about 3 here.
After a Christmas music program at my church, with my father and sister Julia.
Christmas Dinner at Grandma Zeeman’s house with my brother Richard.
One of my dad’s Barbershop quartets.
I have one more set set of childhood memories that cause me to remember Christmases of times past:
- Church Christmas music programs.
- Christmas piano recitals.
- My fathers Barbershop Christmas concerts (and/or gigs).
- My mother’s Christmas Concerts in the Mormon Tabernacle.
- Christmas Caroling with my family.
- School Holiday programs.
- Performing in the musical ‘A Christmas Carol’.
- My Christmas concerts with the Salt Lake Children’s Choir
At the discovery of these memories, all I really can do is chuckle. My adult self, suffering with Christmas concert ‘burn out’, is able to find joy, peace and happiness in my childhood memories of… CHRISTMAS CONCERTS!?!? hehe, oh yes, the joke is on me.
As of tonight (two days before Christmas) I have directed and produced eight major Holiday programs (including a Children’s Musical), and have sung in five Christmas Concerts all with six different choirs. Yes, I’m tired. But every one of those concerts held meaning and joy for many people who sought love, joy and peace in a world that often experiences far too much pain. When I analyze the joyful musical experiences I’ve had this season, I realize I live a blessed and fulfilling life. I am grateful that music is a considerable part of the way my family and I celebrate Christmas.
My Christmas wish is that my children too will have happy and lasting musical Christmas memories. Here are just a few musical moments in their lives that I cherish.
Christmas Eve Services
Allison’s Holiday Dance Program
Allison Attending her first Phoenix Chorale Concert and meeting Charles Bruffy
Benjamin singing in my Cholla Choir
May your 2012 Christmas Season be filled with joy, peace, happy memories, and most of all … Music!