Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent: Christmas Carol

Christmas Carols...if you are like me they roll through your head this time of year.  Whether its something someone says or just picking them up from shopping Christmas Carols tend to be the "sounds of the season".  So, what about you.  What's your favorite Christmas Carol? Why does it stand out among the rest? Is it one you sang as a solo in a kids musical or the holds a special memory in your family?

Share with us!

A Christmas carol (also called a noël) is a carol (song or hymn) whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas or the winter season in general and which are traditionally sung in the period before Christmas. (thank you Wikipedia!)

Christmas Carols appear as early as 4th Century Roman culture.  English carols appear in 1426 as part of a collection by John Awdlay.  Carols, as we call them, were songs sung as part of harvest festivals and only later became part of church liturgy.  More modern hymns and Christmas Carols made their debut as part of a collection by William B. Sandys in 1833.  So, like most of American history, we stole from the Romans and used their ideas to base our traditions upon.  I mean if it ain't broke don't fix it!

Some of my favorites include - O, Come All Ye Faithful, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, O Holy Night and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. (you know all the dramatic ones that you can draw out into ridiculous ballads when you are in the car driving by yourself or as I used to perform on the front porch with a jump rope hanging down like a mic off a nail on the roof - I'm kinda  rock star!) 

I always wonder if Carols are the kind of songs that evoke Christian emotion or if those with secular intent fall into that category as well.  Even after my research this evening, I'm still not clear.

I used to get so excited in choir when it got far enough along in the fall semester to work on Christmas music.  It alone was the reason I was involved in choir.  I just love Christmas music.  I even spent an hour last night in Wal-mart looking through the $5 bin convincing myself that I didn't really need any of the 10-15 CD selections in my hand (yes, I still like to buy CDs over digital music...I'm old school that way)

But, beyond all this, let me share with you a special moment our family shared last year.  I've always heard how therapeutic music can be and how for most of us a song can evoke an emotion or transport us to a special place in time.  Whether its a wedding, funeral, childhood memory, musical performance, senior prom, that first kiss.  Often times there is a special song tied to each of these moments in our lives. 

Now when the Pittman crew gets together there are some "performances" to be had.  There are solos, duets, vocals, instruments, we have it all. Being a musical family, we cannot get through Christmas without gathering around the piano and singing.  The other advantage of this group is that many of us have been singing together for....several decades...some more decades than others.  I love hearing my dad and his 2 brothers (and cousin Mark!) sing some of our favorites because everyone automatically knows their part (we do a mean Happy Birthday too).  My granddad used to sing Sweet Little Jesus boy so we usually make that part of our performance as well. 

But last year, we were all gathered in my aunt's front room and someone had passed around the plastic tub of musical instruments.  There were sander blocks, triangles, drumsticks, finger cymbals, and jingle bells.  So you know we had a full accompaniment with the preschool choir orchestra Pittman-style!

As we sang a very special moment for our family occurred.  I have an aunt that has seen the worst of dementia/altzheimers at an age long before she should struggle with anything like that.  Today she is not well at all and her brave husband and sons are doing the very best they can to make sure she has the best care.  But, last Christmas I watched something magical happen as we gathered.  She was sitting in the corner of the couch and would mouth words as we all sang together.  She knew some and would fumble through others.  But when we got to the chorus of Jingle Bells, she bound up in her seat and sat on the edge of her chair and sang with all her might every single word, alert as I had ever seen her.  We all have a place that we typically sit when we gather and for me that's on the floor beside me dad.  Usually my other cousins are in the floor too (you know we have to let our parents the old people have the couches!) But last year, that was the perfect viewing spot for what I would call a Christmas miracle.

For 3 verses of a song i watched my precious cousins have a moment none of us will forget.  All, evoked from a song. 

I am not a devoted musician by any means, but I can tell you that they are often written from a place of pure, unadulterated, raw emotion.  And, I think music is a gift the author is gracious enough to share with the world.  And, in a very raw moment, we experienced a gift.  Jingle Bells came alive and I've never been more grateful for the video camera of my memory
May your heart be Merry,

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