Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Benedicimus te

This year I went to the Christmas carol service at Harvard (college towns! I love 'em!) The church, as usual, was packed enough that latecomers had to sit on the floor. People come mostly to hear the excellent choir and organ, but also for the pleasure of singing through some of the carols. It's the only place I've been that expects you to sight-read Latin on "Adeste Fidelis", though they do give you a choice of German or English on "Silent Night." It's a legit church service with gospel readings and prayers, but I don't have a good sense of how many of us come for a musical more than a religious experience. Sometimes I worry that I ought to find some more secular outlet for my harmony-singing urges, but I've had no luck.

We are now in the midst of family Christmas with twenty or so of Jeff's and my family. It's a solid week of cooking, eating, board games, singing, exchanging gifts, playing music, napping, and walking around the neighborhood. Pretty much my ideal way to spend a week. I know at least three people who wandered into Thomforde gatherings and stayed for days.

At night we light the menorah. My understanding of the Hebrew words we sing is vague at best. I know they feel warm and close. I'm grateful to whatever has preserved my father-in-law and his ancestors, grateful for Jeff singing beside me.

Last night we all went to see Revels, a stage show of traditional Christmas music and dance. Revels is aimed at a more secular crowd, and is generally very good at making folk culture accessible to people who aren't normally part of that scene.

Revels also includes a good bit of participatory singing, which I always approve of. There's no sensory experience that instantly conveys "you're among friends" to me like lots of people singing in harmony. Revels ends with a stately version of the Sussex Mummers' Carol, complete with Ralph Vaughan Williams' soaring descant.

God bless your house, your children too
Your cattle and your store
The Lord increase you day by day
And send you more and more,
And send you more and more.

And I decided it doesn't much matter what the words mean. We don't have cattle, and many of us don't believe in God. It is enough to stand in a warm building surrounded by a thousand other voices, singing a blessing onto each other.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hello roomie, merry christmas and a happy new year to you. i do still sometimes read your blog you see. it's a friendly feeling...like hearing your voice from oh so long ago. i miss you and hope that everything is well with you. all my love, sandy