Tag Archives: Music

Confessions of an Ex-director

Once calendars change to December 1, airport authorities turn their attention from averting terrorists to halting the escape of Christmas program directors. Many seek asylum in remote jungles. The most desperate sign up for space shuttle flights.

Why this seasonal exodus? Until Advent, optimistic directors delude themselves that Christmas program rehearsals are going well. Yet choirs have forgotten their music every week. Sixth-grade clarinet players blow the wrong end.

With a turn of the calendar page to December, however, …

Christmas program directors run screaming from holly wreaths and The Salvation Army bell ringers.

Experts say victims of this psychosis, like Grandma, were obviously run over by reindeer. Which explains why anyone would become a Christmas program director in the first place.

The real drama begins when soloists and speaking roles are chosen.  Most Nativity plays include only one Mary, and 49 hopeful candidates — backed by 49 equally hopeful mothers — eye the role. Choosing an Infant Jesus from the cute babies in a nursery is a task no Middle East negotiator should tackle.

Amidst controversy, enter the Advent flu. …

It never picks off a candy cane who speaks one line. No. This deadly illness wipes out leads and entire tenor sections. The Annunciation loses something when a nauseous-looking Gabriel delivers his lines holding a barf bag.

Standing defenseless before hacking, germy choirs, instrumentalists and casts, the courageous director battles a shower of viruses unmatched anywhere in the universe.

But by law, directors are not permitted to die during Advent. So, gulping remedies and popping pills, they face weeks of practices. It is said there are no atheists in foxholes. This also holds true during Christmas program dress rehearsals.

Finally, the Big Day arrives …

… and the cast stuns the director with an incredible performance. They were actually listening when she begged them to warm up horns, annunciate words and not pick their noses.

To be sure, no production escapes imperfection. The angels suffer from static cling. Joseph still doesn’t know how to sit while wearing a dress. And as Wise Men and Shepherds adore the Baby, a borrowed donkey leaves offerings on the hay-strewn floor.

But flawed performances only remind leaders that the original event took place with no rehearsals, except in the Mind of God. And as weary directors everywhere breathe a deep sigh of relief and shelve Christmas music until next August, no one needs to tell them Christmas miracles still happen today.

Have you ever led or participated in a Christmas program? What moment would you most like to forget?

Christmas Song Oddities: Do You Hear What I Hear?

Are you ready to sing Christmas songs?

I am! Though each Advent, I’m reminded some Christmas songs are just plain … odd.

Oddity 1

chestnuts-985161_640Let’s examine the first line of a song crooned by everyone from Nat King Cole to Justin Bieber: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. …”

Have you tasted a chestnut? Ever?

I sampled my first when someone at Taylor University, concerned that thousands of good, Christian people were singing lies every Advent, roasted chestnuts over an open fire after a Christmas event.

They tasted like smoky, boiled lima beans.

The immortal Erma Bombeck suggested we sing about popcorn in the microwave instead.

Oddity 2

Accuracy does not necessarily make a song. Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” originally began with a homesick guy’s lament about his sunny, palm-tree-dotted Christmas Eve in Beverly Hills.

If a guy in Frozen Nose, Minnesota, had heard that original version, he might not have helped make that song a best seller. A more likely reaction as he shoveled snow off his roof: “You want a white Christmas, buddy? Turn around, and my boot will send you on a free trip to Santa!”

Oddity 3

Who hasn’t warbled, “Oh, bring us some figgy pudding”?

Do you hear a “please”? The mom in me bristles. How rude.

Worse yet, “We won’t go until we get some,” sounds like holiday extortion.

Besides, who wants figgy pudding? News flash: It’s fruitcake!

Most carolers would run away screaming.

Oddity 4

sleigh-ride-549727_640We sing about reckless driving. Given the second verse of “Jingle Bells,” Miss Fannie Bright’s parents probably had something to say about her date’s driving the nineteenth-century equivalent of an unsafe jalopy. And the unrepentant driver urges other guys to pick up girls and whip fast horses into winning.

Christmas drag racing?

Oddity 5

Consider “The Little Drummer Boy,” in which he offers the only gift he possesses to the Christ Child. Lovely.

What mother of a sleeping newborn wouldn’t welcome a kid banging on a drum?

Mary probably would have preferred a “Silent Night,” though most births are anything but. Ditto for babies. Jesus was a newborn who needed feeding, changing and cuddling.

Did He say, “Excuse me, Mom, but I would like a snack”? Perhaps, “I need clean swaddling cloths.” And, “Please lose the cold hands.”

The Bible doesn’t say. It does say that thirty-plus years later, Jesus cried when His friend Lazarus died.

Yet we sing, “The little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.”

Hmm. Sounds a little odd to me.

 

Do any Christmas songs strike you as a bit strange?

 

 

Silly Song Syndrome

BrainyNotesMusic exerts a profound effect on me. Not surprising, as my family sang songs of faith on all occasions. I distinctly remember strains of “God Works in Mysterious Ways” sung around my cradle upon arrival home from the hospital. …

Musical or not, 99.783 percent of humans are susceptible to a mysterious melody malady that defies both art and science. No research has yet produced an effective cure for Silly Song Syndrome, or SSS. At the disease’s onset, a motif or musical phrase appears, repeats itself, then overruns the brain. The National Center for Disease Control reports this virus acts like audio poison ivy. Once it spreads, 24/7 itching sets in, which sufferers cannot scratch.

Unbelievably, our culture fosters the growth of SSS. We, who supposedly value our children, provide toys that encourage destructive repetition. These high-tech days, when an infant pukes on his teddy, it sings “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” in Spanish, French and Chinese. Three hundred and four times each.

Or until a parent flushes the batteries.

Educational authorities claim children need repetition to learn. Oh, please. How many times did you drill your child before she could sing the Viagra jingle to your minister?

The SSS problem is rooted in the past. Remember the songs we Boomers learned? Why didn’t at least one of our brilliant generation compose alternative words to “There’s a Hole in My Bucket,” non-repetitive lyrics in which dear Liza threw the singer, the song and his stupid leaky bucket into a deep, deep well?

Even classical musical exposure cannot counteract SSS. I play it almost daily, yet do you think the “Hallelujah Chorus” or “Gloria” fill my thoughts? No, “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I’ve Got Love in My Tummy” takes over my central nervous system every time.

Sundays prove particularly traumatizing. Once I awoke not with “Amazing Grace” looping in my mind, but “Barbara Manatee,” as sung by a neurotic cucumber named Larry. It is my least favorite from the Veggie Tales DVD I purchased for my grandchildren — and my husband, who requested it for his birthday. In this seemingly harmless tune, an obsessive manatee with a quavering soprano longs to attend a ball, but her love interest cannot dance.

Exactly what I want to consume my thoughts as I enter church to worship God.

Immediately, I counter by feeding my brain a mind-drilling gem from my college years: “Give me gas in my Ford, keep me truckin’ for the Lord.” Despite its commercial side, this ditty was somewhat spiritual.

It beat the heck out of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

Having read this, what song will assault your consciousness for a year? If not, how did you get rid of it?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Get Outa My Head!

Oh, my God, yesterday our Energizer Bunny grandkids needed to rest. Not as much as Grandpa and I! We parked them before an old “Veggie Tales” video. This morning, my brain has replayed “Oh, Where Is My Hairbrush?” 157 times — so far. OMG, maybe you’re teaching these grandparents a lesson?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Back Home Again

O my God, thank You for our weekend in the city. A luxury hotel at a bargain price. Steaks, seafood, Chinese. An incredible symphony performance that made our hearts sing. Now we’re home again. Work. Laundry. And nobody jumps to fill my coffee cup. OMG, so glad You live here, too!

Post-Christmas Confusion

SnowmanOne night, I lost my way in a blizzard.

“Don’t go out there,” advised my friend, whose apartment was located in the same complex. She knew that even on sunny days, I often arrived late at her place because I’d turned left instead of right.

Insulted, I blew her off. But as I trudged along, familiar landmarks disappeared. The dark gray-white sky changed places with the gray-white ground. My brain felt as fuzzy as my new Christmas hat. A faint stoplight finally guided me home.

I experience similar sensations every year after Christmas. Having plowed through a blizzard of holiday activities, I couldn’t find normal if I fell over it.

The dates of December 26 through 30 feel superfluous, like screws added to an “easy to assemble” Christmas toy because the sender had no idea what to do with them.

“Merry Christmas” doesn’t fit.

“Happy New Year” sounds premature.

Even the generic “Happy Holidays” doesn’t compute because many of us pretend to work between December 25 and January 1 (though nobody accomplishes anything).

Still, all these greetings sound better than the more accurate “Happy Demise of December.”

So, I propose we think positive about these “sort-of” holidays and establish some traditions.

Tradition One: Remember that Christmas music remains legal until January 2. I sing carols in store aisles, belting out “Do You Hear What I Hear?” without being hauled to a psychiatrist or audiologist for evaluation.

Tradition Two: Eat during this in-between time without guilt. Of course, some people claim to eat after January 1, but can rice grass and dried sweet potato rinds be classified as real food? This week, safely indulge in turkey and dressing sandwiches, Christmas cookies, fudge, and peppermint cheesecake with no reprisal from calorie/carb-conscious spouses or imprisonment by personal trainers.

Tradition Three: During the odd week after Christmas, enjoy cards that arrive late. These confirm we weren’t the only ones behind the entire holiday season.

Tradition Four: Consider this in-between week as prime bargain time. Save enormous amounts of money on a huge inventory of articles nobody wanted to buy in the first place.

Finally, let’s sit with our feet up to enjoy the Christmas tree while sipping a steaming cup of coffee, tea or cocoa. No longer do we fear the elves will get us if we’re not addressing cards, fulfilling Christmas lists or checking them twice. Granted, the Christmas tree – sans mountains of gifts – appears a bit naked. But during the frantic, manic and occasionally Titanic weeks before Christmas, every woman dreams of this moment.

And somewhere – after navigating that delightful, dizzy season – we’ll find normal again.

What’s your favorite “sort-of” holiday activity? How long before things return to normal at your house?

 

 

The Most Wonderful Songs of the Year?

WeirdSantaPeopleIIMy name is Rachael, and I’m a Christmas music addict.

Recently, I found a station that plays one 100 percent Christmas music. “O Holy Night,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and “What Child Is This?” filled the room, sung by rich-voiced choirs and artists such as Luciano Pavarotti, Sandi Patty and Perry Como.

However, intermingled “cute” Christmas carols triggered memories of long-ago kiddie programs in which I wore scratchy can-cans and pinched-toe Mary Janes while singing “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” a way-too-much-information ballad, caused me, like the Chipmunks, to wish Christmas wouldn’t be late—partly so I wouldn’t have to sing that stupid kissing song anymore.

Fortunately, I missed out on other animal holiday favorites during that era, including “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” so popular that listeners raised funds to buy one for the 10-year-old singer. Her mother wouldn’t let it sleep in her room, so the girl donated it to a zoo.

Like every Boomer kid, though, I donned western gear to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with cowboy Gene Autry.

Even with annoying add-ons (“like a light bulb,” “like Pinocchio,” etc.) Rudolph can’t begin to compete with “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” for holiday crassness. And yes, I held that opinion long before I became one (a grandma, not a reindeer).

Lately, however, I discovered a song that surpasses that twisted tune, a rap entitled “Reindeer Poop.” Although the lyrics laud a chocolate mounded candy, wouldn’t your mother have washed your mouth out with soap if you’d taught that to your little brother?

The Seedy Greedy Award goes to “Santa Baby.” This singer doesn’t welcome partridges in a pear tree from her true love. She goes for sables, a convertible, checks … and, Santa, baby, a platinum mine would be nice, too.

Actually, the gifts lauded by the English carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” aren’t so economical, either. Their cost totals $107,300, according to Kevin Bagos of AP News. If necessary, one can always go in for a less expensive version, Jeff Foxworthy’s “Redneck 12 Days of Christmas,” which includes three shotgun shells, two huntin’ dogs and parts to a Mustang GT, as well as nine years of probation and six cans of Spam.

Six cans of Spam? Not a Christmas dinner to settle the stomach. If that doesn’t make you squeamish, “Vincent the Christmas Virus” by Canadian band The Arrogant Worms will.

My name is Rachael, and I’m still an Advent music addict.

But some Christmas songs out there come close to effecting a cure.

Do you know one you’d like to fixate in your worst enemy’s mind till 2023?

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Singing in the Stores

O my God, when I used to sing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” along with Walmart’s Muzac, my kids plotted to change their identities. Now, without their civilizing influence, I clear aisles. But, OMG, I can’t help singing. Christ is born!