December 25th, 2008

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Christmas Music

I'm not talking about Christmas music on the radio, or in stores, or ads on TV.   If I could blot that out, I would.

I'm talking about traditional Christmas music sung by real live people with accompaniment (if any) by real live musicians playing acoustic instruments. 

And specifically about Christmas Eve services.   Which, in the two churches where I go on Christmas Eve, means with organ, brass, and tympani.  No, not a drum set.  No, not electrified guitars or keyboards. 

Admittedly, I love a good brass group any time.  And those gorgeous big copper kettledrums.  And the organ (OK, one church still doesn't have a true pipe organ, and the other one's pipe organ had a cipher problem last night that resulted in waves of hilarity, but still.)   Singing with an orchestra (esp. if it includes enough work for the brass) is wonderful.  But singing with the congregation in evening services on Christmas Eve just about defines my idea of pure singing joy.  Familiar carols--everybody knows the words, so the congregation really sings out--and anyway they're supported by a bunch of good brass players and the organ and the drums.  

For those in liturgical churches, this is the start of the Christmas season.   We're "in Christmas" for twelve days until Epiphany.   Only the Advent calendar and candles are proper decorations before Christmas Eve: Advent is its own season, with its own flavor.    Then, on Christmas Eve, the decorations go up; the tree can be trimmed if you have a tree, and out come the trumpets and the kettledrums and whatever else.  

It's not, of course, just about the music.   But for me, the music marks that turn from Advent to Christmas better than anything else.   

As a child, I never got to attend the Christmas Eve services because my step-grandmother (not from a liturgical church) didn't like the idea and always spent that night with us.  Only later did I experience what now I'm part of making happen for others. 

And it's glorious fun.