Betsy Burke’s novel Performance Anxiety turns out to be one of those which I enjoy, but not without taking the occasional break, so I stopped and read A Christmas Caroline, a new take on A Christmas Carol from Kyle Smith. I enjoyed it very much. The Scrooge character is a selfish, materialistic young woman with an eating disorder, and the whole thing is a clear piece of chick lit, even though it was written by a man. Smith is the author of Love Monkey, a highly successful book often described as a male Bridget Jones’s Diary. His first book suffered, according to reviewers, from a really unpleasant main character with whom one couldn’t identify . He has turned this into a virtue by doing a story that requires a truly unpleasant protagonist.
So, yes, good things on the reading front. The rehearsal last night was something else entirely.
The choir’s Big Music is this Sunday, so we gathered in the sanctuary with the bells (“bells” here meaning humans playing handbells). The room was dressed in red and gold striped ribbons cascading from brightly-trimmed wreaths. The bells were tinkling, the narrators (a couple of radio announcers from the congregation) checked their microphones, the accompanist warmed up. We got our music in order. The director stood before us and raised his hands.
At that point it turned into one of those dreams. It seemed that we had never seen the music before, none of us could actually sing, and the entire concept of rhythm had deserted us. It sounded like a field of cattle at sundown.
“I can’t sing an E sitting down.”
“Sit down! It’s the knees on this row!”
“It’s the notes on this row!”
“Can I hear page 9, which I realize is the melody.”
“What’s the problem?”
“Umm… we’re adding edgy harmonies.”
“It’s at a key change”
“And the words change.”
“We have a variety of excuses.”
“You tenors have got to come in strongly. We’re getting our note from you.”
“We really wish you wouldn’t.”
“You have to do this merrily! If you don’t do it merrily, there’s no point in doing it at all!”
“I don’t remember this one.”
“You don’t have to remember it. Read it. That’s why we have it written down.”
Yes, well, it was a tiring rehearsal. I then came home and opened the door to the kitchen preparatory to cleaning it at 9:00 at night, and #2 son jumped out from behind the door and shouted “Boo!” at me. When I objected, he explained that it was an illustration of the economic principle that what is good for one is not good for all.
So, while as a singer I have a natural preference for lovely and complex tunes, the song for today is something quite different. Chanthaboune worked on it last night with the choir she directs (and I hope her rehearsal went better than mine did) and brought it to my mind: “Personent Hodie.” She is doing this 15th century Latin carol in English, with the text you can find by clicking here. Both these sites present it a bit more slowly than I am accustomed to. I have done this with crisp precision in good choirs, but it is well suited to raucous shouting.
It is good to have a few Christmas tunes in your repertoire which are suited to raucous shouting. Sometimes you are at the kind of party where beer is served, and people decide to sing. In most circles, I know, this does not mean madrigals. It means some loud and lively thing that everyone knows. Often, let’s face it, it means “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” or “Jingle Bells” with half the words forgotten. Teach “Personent Hodie” to your inner circle this year, and from now on you will be able to sing it every year in these cases. It is a much more manly choice than “Rudolph,” I promise you.
We now have a new computer, and have switched to broadband (it has become cheaper than dial-up in our neck of the woods). This necessitated moving the computer. It had been in the place with the phone hookup, and had to move to the place with the cable hookup.
So the boys made an impromptu reading corner in the erstwhile computer corner. They are going to put a floor lamp in the corner. We will be scouring yard sales and flea markets for something suitable.
“Personent Hodie” is a good song for moving furniture, if you have that on your to-do list for today.