Monday, December 12, 2005

Carol Fest

I absolutely love this picture of an Edwardian ladies choir. I heard a radio piece recently about the popularity of choirs over the years. The first push to improve singing occurred as early as colonial times when church leaders wanted to improve the sound of the hymns. Itinerant choir masters roamed the country forming choirs and teaching basic musical skills to regular people. This strikes me as such an interesting image. If you lived in some tiny village where nothing ever happened, the arrival of the choir master might have been quite an exciting thing. Sort of like an updated version of the medieval bard. Of course singing as entertainment fell in and out of favor after that, but it always seems to have a place in the community.

Singing is also one of my favorite entertainments. My mom always used to sing with us in the car to amuse us on the long trip to town. She had quite a broad range of songs, and we covered them all from one time to the next. On the way into town we might sing spirituals such as "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" or "Amazing Grace." On the way home we might sing some selections from the Beatles catalog or perhaps a few folk songs. She knew a hundred and one children's songs, and she never seemed to get tired of singing them with us. At one point, my older brother got a book from the library, and decided to teach us ALL the verses to the National Anthem. Thus, I grew up singing away and having a great time at it. Unfortunately, the part I didn't realize is that I am not a very good singer. My timing is off, I have trouble recognizing tunes, and my only real skill seems to be in remembering lyrics. Now I mostly limit my singing to when I'm alone in the car.

However, I do get one chance every year to really enjoy singing Christmas songs. One of my friends holds a ladies-only Christmas party every December. All the girls bring tasty treats, handy crafts to work on, and their best holiday mood. I think we are on year four, and it gets better every time. The hostess plays along on the piano, and this time we went through the entire holiday song book. Two of the girls can really sing, two more are decent, and then there are a few of us who sing veeeery quietly during the high, squeaky bits. Hugely entertaining if you ask me. Now if only I could find a wandering choir master...

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