It was the Best of Music, the Worst of Music


Lessons & Carols logo

Logo done by MMU for Lessons & Carols

But, mostly, I think, it was pretty darn good. Surprisingly so, from my point of view.

Last night was “Lessons & Carols,” an annual concert by the Mount Mercy University Choir and Jazz Connection—the MMU vocal music groups—and the Handbell Ensemble, which includes an incompetent boob on the high G and A in the bass clef.

I’m the boob. The boob has had some rough rehearsals this fall—the music has been harder this year, and I’m far from a musical expert. (Actually, I’m right next to some musical experts, I’m just not personally much of one).

But last night, I think, we sounded pretty darn good. Even I didn’t do badly, and that’s a small Christmas miracle, as well as a testament to the angelic patience of our director, Carolyn Sternowski.

It’s also, I think, a testament to the quality of the MMU vocal groups. Being in Stello Hall, a very nice venue, and performing with a great pianist like Tony Nickle and some great voices directed by Dr. Daniel Kleinknecht—well, it puts a bell ringer on his best behavior.

I titled this blog “best and worst” partly because the program included songs that I wrote about last Christmas because they are among my most and least favorite Christmas tunes in “The Horrible Holiday Sounds.”

This concert included some of my favorites. Beca Orvella’s soprano voice practically lifted us all up to heaven as she belted out “O Holy Night.” Among the best.

Opening with a very familiar, but very good, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” set the right mood for the evening. Later, Ben Wood’s tenor voice sounded great on “O Jesus So Gentle.”

And hearing “Mary, Did You Know” is like watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.” If you’re not a little choked up by that song, you may need to see the doctor to find out if you’ve got “Tin Man” disease and need a heart.

Then, there were other songs. They were sung well, but two of my least favorites were on the program The choir sang “Do You Hear What I Hear?” which remains on my least favorite list for it’s odd portrayal of wind talking to lambs talking to shepherds talking to kings, it’s improbable metaphors (how is a song the size of a sea?) and its non-Biblical conclusion. The king in his palace warm is a bad guy in the Bible.

Stone Drum

A stone drum, © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

Then, there is the “Carol of the Drum.” Last year, I called it by its common title “Little Drummer Boy.” I think I named it the worst Christmas song ever.

Well, I’ve reconsidered. It’s probably not the worst Christmas song ever, it’s merely just a bad song. In hindsight, invention of new characters who didn’t appear in the Biblical story isn’t a terrible thing—think “Ben Hur”—but the song still sounds stupid. Bah Rum Pum Hum Bug.

Still, MMU choir, insipid song sung well. Kudos.

Enough complaining—the evening was grand. The effect of the combination of music and readings is a bit of Christmas magic. I’m glad being in bells brought me there, and shame on me for not making time for this concert every year. It’s a great way to get in the holiday frame of mind—pass the eggnog and fruitcake, I’m ready for everything Christmas.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “It was the Best of Music, the Worst of Music

  1. Cate Sheller

    Hey Joe, wish I’d known in advance; I have yet to hear you ring dem bells. And if you’re interested in another dose of musical holiday cheer, I’m singing in the Quire concert tomorrow night (7PM at Zion Lutheran Church in Iowa City). I’ll send you the particulars if you’re interested. I promise there will be no drummer boys or mighty kings. There is a lamb, though.

    • crgardenjoe

      Big grading weekend, so no guarantees–but please send. Might need a break by Saturday night! We perform Dec. 19 at Cedar Memorial Christmas program.

  2. Have you ever actually had fruit cake? I don’t think I have, although I’ve had panattone which is kind an Italian holiday fruit cake, although it’s more bready than cakey. And Christmas pudding, which has fruit in it. I think you need to videotape some bell playing so Lizzie can watch her grandpa ringing. I feel it’s essential for her upbringing.

    • crgardenjoe

      I have eaten fruitcake, and a related, even odder dish called “Hoot and Holler Whiskey Cake.” Fruitcake can be dry and yucky, but I’ve tasted some that’s not bad. It a dense, not terribly sweet cake with all sorts of dried fruit and nuts in it, hard to describe. The Whiskey Cake is a fruitcake-like confection that is “fed” whiskey (a shot is poured into to) the week before consumption. My mom made it. Yeah. Mom and Dad had a drinking problem.

  3. Toni

    Dude, why didn’t you say anything about the concert? If it wasn’t sold out I could have totally come to hear you play! I live very close, you know. Let me know next time!

    • crgardenjoe

      Ooops. Sorry. I’ll try to fill you in next time. Stello was crowded, but not overfull, and it’s not sold out cause nothing is sold–concerts at MMU are usually free.

  4. Anne

    Speaking of the worst of music, Pat has once again inflicted a version of The Nutcracker on me. This time it’s a klezmer version, though, so it may be interesting….

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