Make a joyful noise--or at least, listen to it
by Debby Mayer on December 11, 2020
Having come from a family that decorated the house and tree on Christmas Eve, I try not to rush Christmas. But this year being what it is, over Thanksgiving weekend I dug out my Christmas CDs and dusted them off.
Adventkantaten by Bach! I always start with that one. Charged with composing a weekly cantata, Bach wrote three for the first Sunday in Advent alone. I stride around my little home, conducting the chorus and humming along, loudly. Advent komme! I say to Sizzle, my dog. Advent komme!
Early in the morning, I play classical carols. A favorite is Sweet Was the Song, which contains all the mystery of Advent and the joy of Christmas in 22 carols in the original language—Latin, French, Spanish—starting with “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel” to “Riú riú chiú” and “Noel en dialogue.”
Lunchtime I go louder—Talkin’ Christmas with the Blind Boys of Alabama & Taj Mahal (“Talkin’ Christmas”!), or Blue Yule (“Merry Christmas, Baby”).
Evenings I move to jazz arrangements, particularly in Nomad Christmas, world music with “Jingle Bells Brazil” and “Boas Festas.”
For any time of day or night, early on there’s El Milagro de Guadalupe, 17 carols in the original Aztec, or later, The Bells of Dublin by the Chieftains, which features “The Rebel Jesus” with Jackson Browne and “The St. Stephen’s Day Murders” with Elvis Costello, another take on the season.
Once, I disdained certain Christmas carols, but no longer (except for “Little Drummer Boy,” unless Ray Charles is singing it). At the Mira Mesa Farmers Market, the cheerful Latinx vendor plays recorded pop carols, wishing us a “Holly Jolly Christmas,” and I hum along with that, too, grateful for his offering.
My CDs are old. They date from when Dan and I chose a verse from a favorite carol every year for our Christmas card. They date from the years since Dan’s death when I have tried, with greater or less success, to create a Christmas of my own. Last year I was attending the San Diego Meeting (Quakers), and I don’t think I played carols. But I missed the Episcopal liturgy, particularly in Advent, and I missed the music, so on Christmas Day I attended the service at Good Samaritan. Now here I am, once again made happy—joyful, even—by Christmas music.