There are some folk who don't see the gem inside my rough exterior who might consider me a hot head. To which I say a hearty "bite me". But let this opinion be a caution that within this blog may lurk items of a venting nature or perhaps those which might be considered a rant. So be it. Proceed with caution. You have been warned.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Some Holiday Cheer

Last Sunday I participated in a holiday tradition I first experienced over forty-nine years ago. That makes me a youngster in the history of this tradition which began two hundred and seventy years ago in Dublin Ireland. That tradition was a performance of George Frederic Handel's oratorio "Messiah". This masterpiece has never fallen entirely out of favor since its beginnings and has survived grotesque though well meaning "editing/arranging" as well as monster concerts with numbers of performers undreamed of (and probably rightly scorned) by Handel.

Evidently it was sometime in the late 1960s or early 70s when the phenomenon of "scratch" or "sing it yourself" Messiahs began to spring up in the United States. These events feature a core group (the orchestra and soloists) prepared in advance to which the audience itself adds the chorus parts. I began singing in these 25 years ago and for the last twelve have played in the orchestra for one that has a history of over 26 years in the same city.

Evidently you don't have to be Christian (or really a very good musician!) to participate in these as I have seen people happily singing their hearts out that never darken a church doorway the rest of the year. And as our conductor reminded the audience this year, such an event now joins a community of hundreds of these events involving thousands of people around the world.

What seems remarkable is that in this era of mass commercialization of the holiday season along with its frustrations and abuses, the spirit of good will, brotherhood, hope, and joy springs forth in these performances. As I sit in the orchestra and look out into the audience/chorus as they listen to the soloists I see the years drop from their faces and they look as they might have looked decades ago in the anticipation of Christmas morning. When they stand and sing the joy in their eyes is unmistakable. How does it happen? I'm sure that the genius of the music has something to do with it. During the three hours the venue where this takes place becomes a haven where you can forget the craziness of black Friday shopping, the resentments and disappointments of holidays past, the sorrow and strife that pervades the world. For this brief period those of us involved have our Scrooge personas drop away and somehow magically know what the words "spirit of Christmas" can sometimes conjure up.

So once every December I am reminded that things are not all that bad, that there are probably more good people than evil in the world and that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."


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