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Christmas marathon

December 28, 2009

Between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I sang 4 p.m., 5:45 p.m., midnight, 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 12:30 p.m. Then I had rehearsal from 2-5 p.m. on Saturday, a cantor mass at 5:45 p.m., mass at 10 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. on Sunday, capped off by a concert at 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Needless to say, I have had my fill of church for a while. Well, a week to be precise, which seems like a lifetime away given the pace of late. I am very much looking forward to receiving my December check next week.

Midnight mass wasn’t so bad. It was the 8:30 a.m. the next morning that was truly brutal. My in-laws paid for a hotel room a few blocks from the church, which was such a wonderful treat. Instead of paying a taxi or commuting home and back for 2 hours, I was able to walk minutes away and climb into bed.

I learned a few things for next year. First: pacing, pacing, pacing. I practically blew my voice out on the second service, which was bad news considering the amount I still had left to sing. I just love Christmas music and holiday services, but I guess I got carried away with the descants and with singing all 4 verses of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Joy to the World.”

Second, I should not drink coffee at dinner before midnight mass. Although it is tempting to caffeine-load, there is plenty of adrenaline to keep you awake. I did not sleep nearly as well as I should have, and I could have used as much quality sleep as possible rather than the caffeine-induced tossing and turning that I experienced.

Third, technique and youth can save you. I managed to make it through all those services, rehearsal, and concert even though I abused my chords early-on. My technique kicked in hard-core, and I supported heartily, breathed correctly, and tried to keep a tension-free sound flowing. I was mostly successful, and my voice, though very tired, didn’t feel completely wrecked when it was all over. The body can be amazingly resilient, and youth does have its advantages. I didn’t feel too badly on Saturday after having had a good night’s sleep the night before. My voice had practically recovered overnight. By Sunday night I was dragging again, but vocally, I have no pain or hoarseness today, which I count as a minor miracle.

I think the quartet bonded a little more as a group. It’s hard not to when you spend that much time together during a stressful, heightened time. There weren’t too many weird personality issues, and no major blow-ups, which is also somewhat of a miracle. Overall, we sang really well, got lots of compliments, and I felt like I contributed greatly to the parishioners’ holiday.

One of the treats of the holiday is the special dinner we get on Christmas Eve, paid for by the church. We got time to socialize and the substitute organist, as well as the former soprano and her husband also joined the current singers and Harvey at his favorite neighborhood haunt. The restaurant was shockingly packed, and the food was excellent. It was a nice respite in the midst of the crammed schedule of masses and oh so much singing.

Darien and I walked back to the east side through Central Park, which was peaceful and sort of magical. It was a beautiful night, and a wonderful way to spend some quiet time together during our first Christmas on our own. He came to hear me at midnight mass, and it was special having him in the congregation.

It was not a restful Christmas, but it was satisfying in its own way. I am completely sold on Harvey’s music now, too. We sang the most beautiful arrangement of “Silent Night,” and not once did I have to hear or sing “O Holy Night.” Now for some down time in Maryland, where we will celebrate a belated Christmas and New Year’s with my family. Adios, Christmas 2009.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 29, 2009 11:13 am

    My Christmas was lessened by not getting to hear you sing, Betsy. Next year!

  2. Becca permalink
    December 30, 2009 4:44 pm

    Wait, you don’t like O Holy Night?? It is my favorite, it makes me cry every time.
    Love you, missy!

  3. Julia permalink
    January 7, 2010 12:16 pm

    We went to a very cold outdoor Epiphany service last night down here in S.C. As we sang “Shine, jesus, shine” I wondered if anyone is writing truly great Christmas music any more. What symbols do we believe in deeply enough to use them in music? What would stir up our hearts? Do we have to have all the childhood memories of family gatherings to bring the sweet sentiment of the season? What about people who are no longer churched? What have they lost by not having hymns that hum in their ears for a month? Can’t wait to hear your sweet voice again. Julia

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