Christmas is upon us once again. This took me completely by surprise as it feels like just a couple of months ago that I uploaded a series of Christmassy posts to my old blog. Three of my neighbours got their outdoor lights up last week and I mentioned this to the husband; as in who’d be mad enough to deck the halls when we’re still in November. Well, it turns out it’s December and has been for the past 8 days. According to my internal biological clock, I’m still back somewhere in October. This could be the case actually, being that Einstein once opined that: ‘People like us, who believe in Physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a subbornly persistent illusion.’
Christmas might be on the yuletide horizon but I don’t feel Christmassy at all. And this in spite of the fact I’ve been practising a couple of Christmas songs, in amongst the secular ones, for my community choir Christmas concert next Monday. ‘Are your family coming?’ one of the ladies I sit with asked last Monday. ‘No,’ I replied, ‘they’ve been to the last two concerts and the husband doesn’t feel he can stomach another one.’ ‘Oh dear, don’t they want to support you?’ ‘Well, I can’t make them come can I,’ I said with emphasis. ‘No, you can’t’ she said, ‘my daughter came to the first concert I took part in 4 years ago and hasn’t been back since.’
I don’t blame the assorted relatives for their lack of community choir support, being that your average, amateur, choral-based endeavour tends to be somewhat hard on the ears. There are a couple of renditions we’re doing – Simon and Garfunkel’s Feelin’ Groovy and Handel’s Glory to God – that really shouldn’t be allowed. Last Monday our leader suddenly realised that the bass section were alarmingly off key (this was after roughly 10 weeks of rehearsal) and (cruelly I thought) made the poor fellas stand up (one of them is 92, so this was a difficult manoeuvre) and sing their bit alone so he could find out who the duffer was. My ladies immediately leaned into me and asked if I could tell who was off key; that they thought it was possibly the impressively big, young bloke; did I agree? This was all ‘whispered’ in a volume that the big, young bloke could hear quite clearly. It’s amazing how quickly the mob mentality emerges when you put someone in the figurative stocks. Our leader then increased the public humiliation by telling the young man (and by young I mean about 40) to put his finger in his ear while he sang (this would have been good advice for the audience too actually) as this would act like an earpiece, enabling him to more easily hear his own voice and thus hit the right notes (it didn’t work.) I firmly believe that you can either sing in tune or you can’t but, more importantly, our community choir is supposedly for everyone, whether they can sing or not, so give the nice young bloke a break I thought.
I also (rather incredibly) took part in the turning on of our local town’s Christmas lights last Friday. This is because I help out with a local school’s kids’ choir. ‘Help out’ is perhaps too strong a description of what I actually do, which is to stand at the end of a row of kids as a symbolic sign of adult authority (even though I have none) in the hopes that it will stop them playing up. My other role is to sing loudly enough to keep the kiddiwinks in tune (a couple of them don’t need my help at all) and to also try to overcome the vocal efforts of a TA, who recently joined the choir to replace a couple of adults who left. This lady is very good at barking at the kids and keeping them in line but, unfortunately, she can’t sing. The teacher who runs the choir welcomed her TA with open arms (being there’s a shortage of willing adult helpers) until the TA opened her mouth. Now we’re all in a process of damage limitation.
‘I’ll teach her some vocal exercises to stretch her throat a bit’, the teacher said’, ‘that might get her hitting the right notes.’ I’d never heard that one before, and also how is said teacher going to broach the subject without giving offence?’ Also, doesn’t the TA know she sings out of tune, or does it all sound ok inside her own head? And, again, does it really matter as long as she’s enjoying herself. Human interaction is just fraught with difficulty; it’s why I mostly stay at home being a boring housewife.
The turning on of the Christmas lights involved a local brass band, various community minded volunteers, who took their jobs very seriously, and the vicar from the medieval church. Those of us who were taking part were herded inside a cordoned off area in front of a marquee which held microphones and amplifiers. The cordoned off area was very small indeed, so that I was squashed in with the kids who kept asking ‘what time is it?’ ‘When’s our bit?’ over and over again; and delighted in showing me assorted Christmas jumpers, which actually lit up, and assorted outlandishly festive headgear.
The audience were corralled around the ‘arena’ and we were off. Proceedings began with the broadly Glaswegian vicar giving his Christian themed address, which was something to do with the fact that the world would be a much better place if only we broke into a smile a bit more. At least I think that was his gist being that I couldn’t hear a thing above squawking kids and the brass band who were still playing (nobody had told them to stop apparently.) I have no actual teacherly authority beyond the ability to SHHHHH everyone very loudly, but my meagre Shhh’ing was lost on the cold wind.
Our leader marched us all into the little arena and the vicar started a countdown to the switch on. 10, 9, 8…… Ooh this is exciting, I thought, I wonder what will happen. A bloke marched out of the tent, pulled on a lever and, above our heads, criss-crossed lines of coloured light bulbs appeared. To be honest, it wasn’t the Blackpool lights and my neighbours houses looked slightly more impressive but the local Council does its best. The switch-on was our cue to start singing. I was standing next to the tuneless TA, with instructions to drown her out but failed miserably. Oh, just let her sing thought I – it’s in keeping with the spirit of Christmas, which our Scots vicar had just been blathering on about. The teacher informed everyone via a microphone that kept screeching horribly that we were going to impressively sing in Latin! This received no reaction at all (it later transpired that no-one could hear anything due to the brass band and the rubbishy set up of the microphones, which meant the off key TA wasn’t actually a problem at all.)
This is a very good choir singing what we sang. We were unaccompanied too and the kids even did the harmonies. Our leader is nothing if not ambitious. Some people don’t go in much for medieval carols in Latin but I just love them.
But still I don’t feel Christmassy in the slightest. Back at the community choir on Monday, towards the end of rehearsal a woman came running over to me, all excited, and said: ‘I saw you at the Christmas lights; I turned to my friend and said that’s Sue from our choir that is!’ ‘Ooohh fame!’ one of my ladies said. ‘Wasn’t it awful?’ the woman continued (this was a sentiment I wasn’t quite expecting) ‘organisation was awful, we couldn’t hear anything, the microphones kept screeching and that brass band never stopped.’ ‘People do their best I suppose,’ I offered in my hesitant, stammering way. Seems like I’m not the only one not feeling the Christmas spirit, thought I.
Anyway, yesterday I got my lights up on the windows, placed my various Christmas themed knitted decorations around the place and bought two advent calendars, 6 days late (for myself and son No.3) The shop woman gave me £1 off on each one to compensate. Son No.3 was disappointed to find that they were boring calendars, the kind without chocolates inside each door, so I rushed out and bought him a box of chocolates, one to be eaten when he opens each door. Well, at least that’s in keeping with the Christmas spirit thought I – greed and gift-based disappointment.
Today I’m assembling the ancient six foot fake tree in the hopes I’ll feel some yuletide gaiety; if I could just get past the feeling that it doesn’t seem like a minute ago since I packed it all up and put it away.