Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Ghosts of Christmases Past, part two

Then there was the year I played 25 verses of Silent Night in a twelve hour period.

It was my first year at Faith UMC, and Christmas Eve happened to be on a Saturday. The Worship and Life Center wasn't finished yet (leaving a large part of the church with only plastic to protect from the outside air--not very convincingly, which is why the piano was getting tuned four times a year back then). The Fusion ("contemporary") service was still jammed into our much smaller South Sanctuary (capacity 150?) and for Christmas Eve there would have to be two of those to accommodate the surge of persons. That meant that there would be four Christmas Eve services, at 3, 5, 7 and 11pm. Each service was about 90 minutes, and of course, concluded with the singing of Silent Night with the candles. We sang all four verses each time, in addition to the introductory verses while everyone lit their candles.

You are still wondering how I made it to 25.

Since Christmas Day happened to be a Sunday, we had a single Christmas Day service (usually we have three on Sunday morning). At it, for no known reason on the planet, our pastor decided we should sing Silent Night. Again. I am not a vindictive man, nor am I Catholic, but I do hope he gets at least a few minutes in purgatory for that.

That was in 2005. In 2011, the phenomenon repeated itself. Christmas was again on a Sunday. However, this time we only had three Christmas Eve services (the Worship and Life Center can hold close to 600 people). Although 1,000 people come through our doors on Christmas Eve, during all the rush, all the hurry-up-let's-get-to-the-silent-night-part, and despite three opportunities, nobody lit my candle during the singing of said carol. I needed both my hands to play the organ (in the dark) so I couldn't do it. I complained about this the next day when someone noticed my unlit candle still on the organ console. So, as three friends sat with me up in the organ "loft" one of them lit the candle with his lighter and we watched it burn during the entire Christmas Day service, which I filled with good organ music despite the exhaustion, because I like going to church on Christmas Day, darn it, and wish, now that the feast has actually arrived, we Protestants didn't all scatter to the winds, and not show up in church for a few weeks. I was tired, but it was a good service. One of the ones I'll always remember. Friends, music, joy. Blessed tiredness.

Also, our church mouse, Charlie, sitting and warming himself by the glow of the candle....

And here's the postlude I played on that Christmas day, from an anthology of Renaissance music of suspicious editorage. The piece is by Gabrielli, and I wonder whether it was originally written for organ (I suspect not). But it is still of good cheer.....

Gabrielli: Fantasia on the Sixth Tone

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