Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Sounds of Christmas

As usual, I am immersed in the music of Christmas - preparing for the church presentations next Saturday night and Sunday morning, as well as the Loveland Choral Society concerts - the following Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon. It's a lot of work, but I enjoy it so much. All this involvement with the music has brought forth some long ago memories.

Wherever we lived when I was a child, we tried to get back to Monticello, Minnesota for Christmas with both sets of our grandparents. My Grandma Swanson's church was full of good friends and wonderful Christmas memories. The most prominent memory from those early years involved the pastor, whose name was Rev. Noel, appropriately enough. It was pronounced Noll, but it looked like Christmas. He had a wonderful singing voice, and every year would sing "O Holy Night." Oh, how we looked forward to that, even at such a young age. It remains one of my very favorite Christmas songs, and we're singing it in the Loveland Choral Society concert - a beautiful rendition arranged by Rene Claussen. My favorite recordings are by Sandy Patti and Josh Groban - both of them just soar at the end.

It was the 5th grade in Heber Springs, Arkansas. My dad had just accepted a new pastorate in northern Minnesota, and we were leaving before Christmas - right in the middle of our preparation for the school program. That year we were singing a Christmas carol I'd never heard before. I loved it - "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." I was so incredibly sad when I had to leave a few days before the performance. I still love the lyrics, which were written during the Civil War by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. But I love even more the newer version of the music, which we sang in our church musical last year and are repeating this year. Take a few minutes to be blessed by Casting Crowns:

It was the 9th grade, at Edgewood Junior High School in a suburb of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. I was taking a typing class (which, by the way, would have a huge impact on my future in the workaday world). Our teacher was clever and devised a contest to spur us on. It was a trip from Minneapolis to Miami, with each step advanced by virtue of our speed and accuracy. A new friend named Kathy became my rival, and we really helped each other as we worked to be the first to arrive in Miami. Truthfully, I don't remember who won, but I know it was very close, and that we both benefited greatly from this class and the contest.

Ironically, Kathy and I also became rivals in another arena that required dexterity and speed of our fingers. We were both in the mixed choir and both played the piano. We were both privileged to be asked to accompany the choir. I was chosen to play for the Christmas concert, and she would accompany the spring show. I was so excited, and nervous, as I practiced on my own and with the group. It was heady stuff, because it was quite a large school. I must admit I do not remember a single song we were going to perform. Probably a week before the scheduled program, I got very sick. My glands were swollen, my throat was sore, I was totally fatigued, and I had a high temperature. I ended up not only missing the program, but the last two weeks of school before vacation - and I was sick the entire two weeks of vacation. It took the entire first two weeks to get the diagnosis of infectious mononucleosis. I had never heard of it before, and was appalled to learn that it is also called "the kissing disease." I was so sick - it made my eyes hurt, so I couldn't read or watch t.v. The only thing I could do was listen to the radio - and that's where I first heard "The Little Drummer Boy." I loved it - at least the first 300 times it played. The other one I remember was Frank Sinatra's "And this song of mine in three-quarter time wishes you and yours the same thing, too." I don't know why I remember that. I liked it better in later years with The Carpenters.

And then of course there was my first year of teaching in southwest Kansas when I heard "I'll be Home for Christmas" every time I turned on the radio and was very thankful that it was true. I've never been without family at Christmas in this long life. The only even close to bad memory was the first Christmas we were married. We were heading for my folks' place in Colorado Springs, a 2 1/2 hour drive on a good day. We had been hit with a storm during the night, but we headed out anyway. The interstate was treacherous, and it took us far too long to reach that first truck stop outside of Longmont, about 20 miles from home. The truckers all told us to turn around and go back home, that they'd never seen the roads so bad. That was enough for us! But, we had been prepared to be gone all week-end, were taking one dish to share at the feast, and had nothing to eat in the house - and in those days, no self-respecting store was open. So we foisted ourselves on my SIL, had a great time together, and headed down to the Springs for the rest of the week-end, and for our first anniversary on the 28th.

There are so many other wonderful songs that evoke other memories. But I must close for now. I trust you're truly enjoying this season of busyness, and remembering why we do it all. Happy Birthday, Jesus!


HOOTIN' ANNI said...

As you know, my favorite holiday commerical [posted on my blog at the bottom] is of the song "I'll be home for Christmas" with the huge farm house that is so like my own grandparents home...I get tears each and every time I see it and hear the song. I didn't know you played the too...but I sold our piano when we retired and moved to AZ...wish I still had it.

Oh the songs...oh the songs...this is a great time of year. The GOOD songs. Oh yes, and the Drummer it too.

My sister in law passed away on Thanksgiving day while we were on vacation, and the funeral was two days ago....we didn't get to go, but I was told y'all got some freezing temps and snow. I don't think Bud and I would know HOW to drive in snow and on icy roads anymore. In a way, sad we couldn't attend, but glad to be here with balmy weather.

A link to my Friday post: Part 1 of our Road Trip

Hope you have a lovely weekend.

Needled Mom said...

I enjoyed all of the memories, but I especially loved your choices of songs to be remembered - some of my favorites.

Did I know before that your grandparents were Swansons? That was also our family name when they came and settled in MN. DH's grandfather changed it shortly after arriving because there were so many in MN.

Brenda said...

I enjoy reading your back in the day memories!
Sandy Patti's rendition of Oh Holy Night is my absolute favorite. She has such an outstanding voice and just when you think she's hit the highest note possible she changes keys again. It's awesome!

grammy said...

You truly love music...and know it quite well.. Me...not so much. Not that I don't like to listen... but l now very little about it. Fun to hear about how you and music and Christmas have been connected over the years. (o:

faith hope love ღ said...

nice post! thank you so much for sharing...blessings... soraya

Forty Pound Sack said...

I love every one of these stories ~ Happy Holidays to you!

Laurie in Ca. said...

You sure have some wonderful memories of seasons past Dawn. I have to say that "O Holy Night" is my all time favorite song. It gives me goosebumps every single time I hear it. Tears too:) I am sure things are buzzing there with the four girlies. I am so glad that you are so ministered to with all the music and memories.

Love and Hugs, Laurie

nannykim said...

Oh, just love that youtube video you posted! Beautiful!! I have no singing memories since I can not carry a tune. Well, actually, the memory is of someone saying how bad I sang (3rd grade!). The one who told me was my best friend and she continues to sing to this day in different musical plays!

Linds said...

My absolute favourite carol is O Holy Night - my kids will tell you they have had to listen to it as we open presents on Christmas morning every single year. They even tried to hide my record of it one year, but you know, now that they have their own homes, they play it too. Christmas always evokes memories. I am just thankful that mine are good! And full of music too.

Glenda said...

Dawn, your love for music shines in this post, and you shared some great memories. I love Groban's Christmas songs, too. In fact, I just added one to my blog earlier today - and I added "Little Drummer Boy," too! Another favorite!

Hope you continue to enjoy this Advent season!

nancygrayce said...

I had never heard that version of I Heard the Bells but I love it! Beautiful and I so love Oh Holy Night.....I just heard a new (at least to me) version of that one by someone. Of course it flees my mind right now.

You have so many wonderful memories and stories to tell! Your children and grandchildren are so fortunate to have you in their lives!

Merry Christmas friend!

Ms. Kathleen said...

Hi Dawn, it is amazing something the memories music can conjure up... You've had an interesting life to be sure. Love, love, love the Casting Crowns song -- beautiful! O Holy Night is my fav Christmas song I thing, sung by many. Thanks for sharing!

Linda said...

This is just great Dawn. I love these stories. It is amazing - the power of music. I have to tell you that your gift as a pianist is one I envy. I've taken lessons and tried really hard, but I have come to the sad conclusion that I will never be good at it. I keep plugging away...but it's slow going at best.
Your Christmas memories are wonderful. I've been blessed with so many wonderful family Christmases too. A precious gift.
I love your Christmas look! I'm terrified to try using another layout, but you do a great job.

Sharon Lynne said...

I loved the the song you posted. I'm going to play it for Mozart. I feel bad you got mono. You have such vivid memories of your life. We are lucky that you share them with us. They are so full of "real" life.

Maine Mom said...

I am in awe of your memory!

I hope your concerts go well. :-)