Monday, December 10, 2012
"Come Let Us Adore Him!"
The stake Christmas fireside was last night.
And to truly understand the enormity of that statement, you need a couple of explanations. One, our stake is like no other I've ever seen when it comes to music and big productions. The stake presidency is a strong supporter of the arts in worship. (I know, awesome, right?) And two, as of this past summer, I am the stake music specialist. Praises be, I'm not the chairman which means I'm not head honcho. That honor would belong to the talented and wonderful Amy....but I am her partner in crime, her 2nd in command, her accomplice, her collaborator. Which all means, that this stake Christmas fireside is a BIG DEAL, and that we were in charge of it. To give you a good idea...last year in accompaniment to the stake choir, there were also dancers in the aisles and a bell choir.
The thing is, originally the stake presidency had thought to dispense with the Christmas fireside this year. Last spring the stake choir put on a fabulous Easter cantata (written entirely by Amy. See? Didn't I tell you she was talented?) The evening was one of the most beautifully spiritual I can remember. And I'm not the only one that felt that way. The stake presidency decided that we definitely needed to make the Easter cantata a yearly tradition. But doing a big Christmas fireside and then immediately jumping into rehearsals for Easter come January, the stake presidency felt, was a huge drain on the wonderfully cooperative but volunteer stake choir. Too many Sunday nights away from family.
But to not have a Christmas fireside at all? So we (mostly Amy) came up with a new plan to pitch to the stake presidency. What if we involved the wards? Each ward being in charge of providing one musical number....either from their ward choir who would already be rehearsing Christmas music for their own ward Christmas programs later in the month, or a small group. And to make the transition from one musical number to the next, what if we made a video of primary children talking about what Christmas means to them to play up on the big screen as one ward came up and the other went down? The stake presidency said yes. Especially as they had been receiving feed back from members in the stake who were sad about the loss of the great family tradition that had been the Christmas fireside for so many years.
So Amy and I got busy. And rather than rehearse a big stake choir, the fireside for us became a lot of organizing. I can't count how many emails Amy sent out and received from each ward as we put this baby together. We visited each and every primary in the ward interviewing and video taping children talking about the birth of Christ and other family Christmas traditions. We visited each and every ward choir to listen to their musical selection. There was a planning meeting of the stake music committee (organist, pianist, librarians, stake cultural arts liaison, etc.) where we discussed and made assignments for decorations, programs, advertising and such. We had a rehearsal with the musicians participating in the big congregational numbers, most that involved 4 hands on the piano, organ and various instruments...violins and flutes. And then we had one big dress rehearsal a week ago to go through the flow of the program with all the participants from the wards and to practice the big finale number..."Joy to the World" which Amy had arranged and which also included lots of musical extras.
So the big night arrived. The fireside started at 7:00. We were to go through "Joy to the World" a couple of times at 6:00. Amy and I arrived at 5:15 to get the microphones set up and make sure everything was ready. Decorations were already in place....poinsettias and lanterns. Extra platforms on the podium for the big choir number had been installed. As had the projector set-up for the primary video. However, in our dress rehearsal from the week before, we had neglected to take into account that the sound system would have to accomodate the video! And we had 3 extra microphones that we were using. (The stake bought a fancy sound and recording system a year ago specifically to record and archive all the big musical things our stake performs.) Amy and I calmly panicked (is that an oxymoron?) as we tried to figure out what to do. I literally crawled all over the podium in my skirt and heels looking for another mic outlet and only found one under the sacrament table by laying on my back. (I'm sure I looked rather silly....) But as we tested everything we found that we just had too many things plugged in and with having to turn the sound up so high for the video, one of the other mics kept squealing. We had to do without that one. Which was disappointing, but fine nonetheless. I don't think it really hurt the sound of the choirs all that much.
But once the event actually got started with a big congregational sing-a-long of "Angels We Have Heard On High"....4-hand piano, flute and organ with me directing...all went smoothly. The primary video was cute, the wards came up on cue. Amy and I were both up and down throughout the evening putting music stands in place, moving the microphone for smaller groups, participating with our own ward choirs and directing/playing piano for the congregational numbers. The "Joy to the World" big finale was absolutely stunning. I'm not sure I've ever seen Amy smile that big...she looked absolutely joyful. We all sat down to listen to a sweet Christmas message from our stake president and then it was time for the closing congregational song. Why is "O Holy Night" not in the hymn book?? We sang all three verses. I'm not sure I can truly describe how I felt when we sang that song. Piano, organ and violin backing us up....I directed a chapel and cultural hall FULL of people singing the most beautiful arrangement of my very favorite Christmas song. And by the 3rd verse I was in tears. I'm sure I looked a sight....trying to direct everyone with tears rolling down my face and my voice quavering. I completely wept through the closing prayer. And when the amen was said, I looked up to find that I was not the only one wiping away tears. Our sweet stake president came up afterwards to tell me that he so appreciated my emotion through the final song. I guess maybe I didn't look too silly after all. But despite how glorious the whole evening had been, it was that final "O Holy Night" and the spirit that we all felt during it that will likely stick with me the most.