Well, for the most part, the “Lessons and Carols” event, a performance by the Mount Mercy University Choir, Band and Handbell Ensemble, went fairly well.
The concert took place in the Chapel of Mercy at MMU, a change in venue from Stello Hall. Snacks were served in the University Center, rather than a cramped hallway of Warde Hall. I’m very fond of Stello, one of the nicer places at MMU, but the change to the chapel was a big plus. The performing groups were cramped in Stello, and there wasn’t room for all who wanted to watch. This year, the chapel was fairly full, but not bursting. There were a few empty seats, but not many—and that’s just about right. The crowd was cozy, but not cramped.
The first song on the program that the handbell group which I am a member of played on was “Ring Merry Bells.” For me, it did not go well. The song is played in 4-2 time, an evil invention, if ever there was one. Two beats per measure guarantees a quick pace with lots of eighth notes, which I think of as Satan’s music. The bell part starts on the “and” of beat 2, which is pretty much imaginary anyway. In rehearsals, I almost never figured out when the “and” of 2 on the measure before measure one was, but it’s a sick, sadistic notion anyway.
In performance, I actually did ring for a few measure in sort of the right places, but then came 19 measures of rest. And a start on the “and” of 2 again. It was never destined to happen, and it didn’t. I just sort of sat there, looking like a rather unattractive part of the set, while confusing music swirled about me.
Well, not an auspicious start, I must say. Luckily, however, everything went better after that. We played “Silent Night,” and I had a heck of a lot of “and” beat eight-notes in that cruel German song—but I mostly did it. I started with the choir, played most of my notes in the neighborhood of where they were to be, and finished when the song was over. “Silent Night” can’t go much better than that, a least for me.
I did OK on “Carol of the Bells,” which I always think of as a funny name because our ensemble director is Carolyn Sternowski, who I think of as Carolyn of the bells. It was not a big surprise that it went well, while a bit long, that song wasn’t one of the harder ones.
And then there was a grand finale, a loud mishmash of “Oh Come All Ye Faigthful” being belted out by congregation, choir, band, bells and organ. If I made any mistakes in that tune, I doubt anybody would have heard me. The problem with that song is the middle part where the organ suddenly starts droning on without a beat—up until then, you could keep time by listening to the organ, but we often got lost when the droning started. In performance, while I am sure my beat meandered a bit, I still started with and ended with the whole choir. Can’t ask for much more than that.
The Sebers grandkids came to the concert, which made it even more grand. And the U Center was a nice relaxing place to relax and have a Christmas cookie (or two) afterwards.
Well, glory halleluiah. One Christmas concert done, one more to go on Dec. 16. Hope to see you all there.