12 We have presents under our tree. This is a new thing for us. We have had the custom of “Santa presents” unwrapped under the tree as if by magic on Christmas morning. For the past few years, I’ve been proposing that we could wrap the presents and put them under the tree so that I didn’t have to stay up till all hours on Christmas Eve.

#2 son has been adamantly opposed. This year, he agreed. Reluctantly, but still.

He got word yesterday that he has been accepted to the college of his choice. He is very excited about that. It makes up for any lingering sadness about having wrapped presents.

Yesterday was a morning of blogging punctuated by a very cold walk through the cemetery, then a tutoring appointment, then a meeting with The Computer Guy and the big game hunter. The hunter said he was very nervous about the meeting, and I suppose meeting with a couple of information workers could be pretty terrifying to someone who is only accustomed to hanging out with grizzly bears and wildebeests. I think his website is going to be fun to write.

After we saw him off, we had a bit of a discussion on Design and Life, I checked out the upcoming new assignment (a website that needs translating from Hong Kong English into American English and then — for a really exciting surprise right at the end — there’s a page in Spanish to translate into American English, but at least it doesn’t have the intermediate step of Hong Kong English), and I came home briefly and celebrated with #2 son. #1 son quickly pointed out that his school has a better football team.

Next was a lesson in how to count the notes in bell music.

I am now going to talk about music theory. The song of the day will be down at the bottom of the page if you want to skip along down.

Here’s the thing: music, as a general rule, is sort of mathematical. See the number 4 on the page of sheet music here?  When you see that, you can figure that there will be four counts in the measure (that’s the bit of music in between the vertical lines, like “Angels we have” right at the beginning).


You can have four 1-count notes, or you can have more shorter notes as in the “gloria” bits, or fewer longer notes as in the “deus” part, but it adds up to four. Note that in the last line there, the notes for “De-” are open, not filled in. That means they each get two counts. That will be important later in the story.

This is a simple piece of music, and it can definitely get way more complex, but there is that basic rule that there’s a limit to the number of counts you can get in a measure.


Bell music is different. See how at the top there you have those open, two-count notes right before all the shorter ones? If I were going to play the shorter ones, I would think that I should wait until after those long notes to play mine.

I would be wrong.

And down at the bottom, there’s an open note with no stem on it. That gets four counts, and yet it’s sitting there Come_Ye_Lofty_4awith all those other notes. Sometimes this happens when it’s the same note, too — like, there’ll be a four-count F and then after a bit there’ll be three one-count Fs, all in the same measure.

So Matt’s mom showed me yesterday how to disentangle the counts in bell music and guess what your particular bells’ counts are. Sometimes you have to count over from the right, but still, I can do that ahead of time and write it in. She also explained how to tell from the key signature whether I should play the B or the B flat.

This could make all the difference to my bell playing experience.

After that, we went caroling. There were a dozen of us, from the choir. If you want some really effectively musical caroling, a dozen people from a choir is quite a good recipe for success. I think we made everybody cry. It was fun, too.

Today’s song is “Come Ye Lofty, Come Ye Lowly,” a very effective song for caroling. There are several tunes, but the one you want — and the one you can hear at that link — is the very sprightly one arranged from an old Breton carol by our old friend Gustav Holst, a guy who knew how to have fun with a tune.

The link has usable sheet music, but you might enjoy this old piece here, showing children out caroling or possibly being very very quiet for fear that the wolves will come and eat them or something. I don’t know. I just think that they look pretty grim, and the boy in the back appears to be watching the landscape with some trepidation.

It doesn’t really fit with the song.