Last night we had a three hour rehearsal. The orchestra wasn’t quite ready yet, so they had more than that. They were working on the arias when we choristers arrived, and the director kept them after we left.

We were packed in like sardines and the combination of the number of people and the lights meant that it was quite hot. Tonight we’ll have a two hour rehearsal followed by a two and a half hour performance, and then there’s tomorrow’s matinee, so I’m planning to take some time off today.

I have a haircut scheduled this morning, and I’m expecting Into the Woods from Netflix. I’m doing a lesson plan on this for the arts center. I’m also doing one on Civil War music.

Actually, all this week I’ve been planning to work on these lesson plans, but have instead been doing websites. People have approached me about websites, so I’ve stopped the arts center assignment and written about replacement patio furniture cushions, paintless dent removal, one hour eyeglasses, and stuff like that. No complaints from me, since the next tuition payment is always on my mind, but I am looking forward to spending some concentrated time on the arts center project today.

Thinking of Civil War era music, as I have been, I’ve naturally thought about “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote this in 1863, having faced some rather horrible personal trials including having a son wounded in the war. If you know the story, and of course if you are one of those who cries over things like “Little Drummer Boy,” you will doubtless find yourself getting misty-eyed over this song.

The words we usually sing have a pretty simple story: someone listening to the whole “peace on earth, good will to men” in Messiah or something and finding himself unconvinced. Many people have had this feeling, after all, celebrating Christmas when we clearly don’t have peace on earth and are a bit short of goodwill, too. In the song, the speaker confirms his faith at the end.

For the traditional tune, written by John Baptiste Caulkin (who cut the verses about cannons from the poem) in 1872, you can’t do better than Harry Belafonte, though lots of other people have recorded this song, from Frank Sinatra to Larry Gatlin. Jars of Clay has done an overly sweet version which makes a good Christmas carol for people who don’t want anti-war messages in their holiday songs.

Casting Crowns has given the poem a new tune. Sally de Ford has altered the original tune, and shares hers in free sheet music. So all in all, you have lots of options for listening to this piece, and you might want to sing it, too. It’s a good one to sing as you go around your daily routine, either in a slow and thoughtful way or in a jazzed up version of your own, if it’s that kind of say.