With the encouragement of Chanthaboune and Mayflower, I am going to buy some yarn for a Christmas present for myself. How self-indulgent is that?

I am planning to order a bunch of different colors of the Elann Highland wool everyone has been talking about, for the Fair Isle cardi that I have been thinking about for months. As I have contemplated it, I have been thinking that I would use many shades of rose, green, and cream. I guess my garden looked like that at the time I started thinking about it, many many cables ago. But #2 daughter suggests blue instead. And it is true that Elann’s blue names — Jacaranda, Lotus Blossom, Wisteria — are better than the corresponding Victorian Rose, Dusty Rose, Antique Rose. So as soon as I make up my mind, assuming that there is still some yarn left by then, I will order some. And at that point, I will actually have a stash — that is, I will own more than just the yarn that I need for the next project. How wild and undisciplined can I get?

Today’s Christmas song is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” It is of course way too early to sing that if you are observing Advent, but I could not resist it after reading this installment of “Failing at Life,” a column in the SF paper:


I do not read “Failing at Life” regularly, but my attention was caught by this one because it is about emotional reactions to Christmas carols. Now, many of us cry at Christmas carols. In fact, my choir director has kindly scheduled “In the Bleak Midwinter” in a spot where I can recover from hearing #2 daughter sing it before I have to sing anything myself. And, as a musician, I will admit that I like to see a little happy sniffling in the audience. But Ms.Gonick doesn’t merely tear up a little over touching words or a lovely tune. Here is Ms. Gonick’s view of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”:

“The most heart-shredding carol, the one I voted “most likely to get me thrown out of a concert hall and onto a psych ward,” was: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

…”Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”

Now, I fully realize I’m a hypersensitive psycho, but I still say anyone who can hear those 10 words sung by a choir and not fall to her knees in ancient and abject despair simply isn’t paying attention. The final four are the worst.

God and sinners reconciled?

Sinners and sinners reconciled?

Anyone reconciled with anyone ever? On this earth not of mild mercy, but of ever more irreconcilable differences, not to mention global warming?”

Well, obviously the words are more cheering to people of faith. However, I would say that this song — with words by the dour Wesley and music by the remarkable Mendelssohn — is one of the most joyful songs ever. Mendelssohn, as you probably know, was Jewish, and actually wrote the music in a cantata to celebrate Gutenberg, but it fits Wesley’s words of joy perfectly.

I know that it is an established fact that the sight and sound of cheerful people at Christmastime depresses some people horribly. If the sight and sound of people being miserable cheers you up, check out Ms. Gonick’s witty discourse. Then sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” feeling free to cry as you do so.

Here you will find the words and midi, plus the history of the song:


Here is a link to print out scores for many instruments including sax and viola:


If you come up with a group that intends to do this carol with both sax and viola, please invite me.