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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Advernt Calendar of Christmas Memories: 3 - Music

To me Christmas means singing. One of my earliest memories is taking part in a primary school (girls only) nativity play, singing solo the first verse of "We Three Kings of Orient Are" and wearing a cardboard crown with jewels made from fancy sweetie papers. I have never wanted to sing solo since.

 In another Christmas concert, my role was to play the triangle in the percussion band - a bit of a come down from the most desired instrument that everyone longed to get - the sleigh bells.

One family get-together, after the meal, we children did our party pieces, with mine on the piano. My little brother decided to plough his way through all 12 verses of "The Twelve Days of Christmas". He developed hiccups and his long socks kept falling down - this was the days of lads in short trousers, despite the weather.   But he was determined to finish singing the carol, kept pulling his socks up and by the end, we were all falling about laughing and we never allowed him to forget this occasion.

At secondary school we always had a carol service where the tradition was to sing some carols in foreign languages - so for French "It est ne le divin enfant" or "Qui est cette odour agreeable", German was "O Tannenbaum", "Es ist ein Rose entsprungen" or "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht" and Latin always "Adeste Fideles".

My father sang in the church choir and my mother in the Townswomen's Guild Choir and being a choir member myself has been one of my key interests. In autumn, out came the orange, green and blue books of "Carols for Choirs" (Oxford University Press) as we prepared for our Christmas concerts, looking for a mixture of old favourites and newer arrangements and trying to come up with slightly different themes e.g. Carols from Around the World, Carols Down the Centuries, Carols for All Ages etc. (I know, not exactly original, but then Christmas is a time for tradition). 

My own favourite carols  have not changed much over the years "Silent Night", "In the Bleak Mid Winter", "Three Kings from Distant Lands Afar" and "O Holy Night". I like the simple unadorned arrangements best - nothing too fancy, but the descants of the standard choral classics such as "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", I find it so uplifting as the sopranos soar up to the high notes. We always ended the concert with a lively rendition of "We wish you a Merry Christmas" followed by the serving of mince pies and mulled wine to complete one of my "must do" Christmas activities - a great start to the Christmas Spirit.

It is much the same with that other staple Christmas music - Handel's "Messiah" which I have sung many times and it never palls. An unforgettable, wonderful experience was singing in the Royal Albert Hall in London in a "Come and Sing" Messiah in a choir of 1000, with orchestra, organ and a packed audience. Singers came from all over Britain and Europe to take part, so there was a great buzz and camaraderie as we found our seats. It was altogether marvellous, moving and exhilarating, and at the end, I walked out on a high!

Classic FM is my favourite radio station and come December 1st we know we are in for a feast of carols and Christmas music. On Christmas Eve, it is time to watch on TV the beautiful candlelight carol service from Kings College Chapel, Cambridge.

So for me, Christmas would not be Christmas
without the enjoyment of seasonal music!

Christmas Music – 3 December 2013

Adapted from a posting of 2013, but I hope it will be of interest to my new readers.

“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.

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