12 Remember yesterday’s chaos?

I vanquished it.

Here’s what I believe about papers: you touch them once. If they require action, you take that action. If you are actually going to use them again, you file them immediately. If the information would be easy to get again, or will never actually be required again, you throw them away.

But this is actually more of a faith statement than a reality. because sometimes when you’re busy — or at least when I’m busy — the papers end up in piles.

12 Yesterday one of the women in my small group shared how stressed she was by her messy desk, and that she had taken all the papers and sorted them into piles.

This wouldn’t work for me. In fact, a desk of piles would still be a messy desk for me. It would just be moving the mess around some more.

I have all the papers filed so I can find them immediately when I need them. I do own a filing cabinet. Unfortunately, the desk is in the little space between dining room and kitchen (not a great decorating move, but needs must) and I felt that the filing cabinet would be too intrusive there. So instead I have portable file boxes. They may be ugly, but they aren’t messy. In theory, I ought to put them away at the end of the workday and bring the one I need back out in the morning. I haven’t done that yet, but today might be the day.

Well, that was the chaos of the desk area. There is still the chaos of the music.

Rehearsals last night were pretty horrible.

First was bells rehearsal, where I kept losing my place. We were playing “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” and I was just flat out singing along in hopes of keeping my place, but then there was thumb damping and table damping and other fancy stuff I don’t even know the names of, and I just grimly continued, hoping I was occasionally playing the notes in the right place.

Very stressful. Not fun at all. We are doing this piece on Sunday, and there will be no more rehearsals.

There will also be no more choir rehearsals. In the choir, at least, it is not a case where everything would be fine if it weren’t for me, which is how it sometimes seems to me in bells. But I am still making errors. The music is for Sunday. We have about a dozen pieces. At this point, we should be working on little nuances of dynamics, or perfecting interpretation, not asking for notes.

It sounds hideous.

How much does that matter? It isn’t a performance, after all. But surely if we are just making a horrible cacophony, this will distract people from the joy of their worship experience?

Ah, well. We had a slight controversy over “In the Bleak Midwinter” last night. One of the Oldest Members of the choir wanted to revive an ancient tradition of singing it on Christmas Eve, but the newish pastor points out quite rightly that it is an Advent hymn, and not proper for Christmas. Not to mention the whole “bleak” part. He wants a festival air for Christmas.

Christina Rossetti wrote the words at the end of the 19th century and Gustav Holtz wrote the tune at the beginning of the 20th century, demonstrating just what a couple of highly talented people can do in the way of a carol. It is quite beautiful, both words and music. You can sing it, play it on your cello or clarinet, hum it — really, there is nothing you could do to mess this up.

People have tried, though. James Taylor recorded it with an odd little “bleak” followed by a rest, suggesting to the listener that he didn’t understand the words. Sarah McLaughlin recorded the lines “If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; If I were a wise man, I would do my part” as “If I were a shepherd, would I bring a lamb? If I were a wise man, would I do my part?” Perhaps this was intended to suggest soul-searching. She may be encouraging us all to ask whether we are doing all that we should… or something. In fact, it just causes the words to quit making sense.

This is one of the Victorian snow carols, though just barely Victorian. Many people don’t like to sing these songs at all. Let’s face it, the following words would not really describe Bethlehem:

“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.”

If you want something peppier, consider another of the group, “See Amid the Winter Snow.” This is rarely sung today, having somewhat unfortunate words, but it is a wonderful tune, very uplifting. Edward Caswell and John Goss put this together during the great Victorian Christmas carol revival, when lots of snow was customary in carols. It includes “See the tender Lamb appears” which has culinary overtones, and “wherefore have ye left your sheep on the lonely mountain steep?” which has a desperate for a rhyme quality to it. But it also has this stirring refrain:

“Hail that ever blessèd morn,
hail redemption’s happy dawn,
sing through all Jerusalem:
Christ is born in Bethlehem.”

You have to sing this bit thunderously, with big trumpetlike sounds if you are an alto or a bass, and soaring high notes if you are a soprano or a tenor. Or just shout it out raucously if you aren’t any of those things. Sweeping arm gestures are good, too, if you are not in a choir at the time.

See, this way you have options. If it is actually snowing where you are, you can stay at home singing a plaintive tune about snow on snow on snow, or you can go out boldly, singing “Hail!”

#1 son got his classes picked out for next term, and starts his Christmas break job this morning (at 8:00! gasp!), so I am making beignets for him, as well as eggs and sausage so he will survive. I must go and do so.