Friday, December 25, 2009

In the Nick of Time

For all of you who were concerned because of our lack of gingerbread house decoration this year, you will be relieved to know that my sisters rectified the situation and decorated gingerbread houses with the kids today. Phew! Close call....

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

This Christmas season has been a bit stressful for me. I guess two-month-old baby + husband who works long hours + co-directing a ticketed concert for Cantico + directing/writing ward choir Christmas program = lots of stress and craziness. Two years ago at Christmas I was in a similar situation-- Jackson was only a month old. Although I had one less choir to deal with, I directed the ward choir program when he was only 3 weeks old. Another holiday season packed with excitement....

When you have a new baby during the holidays it seems like you end up sorting your traditions into "necessary" and "maybe next year" piles. There are a lot of smaller things that go by the wayside and the end result is usually not exactly "Martha Stewart." This Christmas has been no different. While Adelyn is two months old, I still feel like I'm decorating with one hand tied behind my back. (Oh wait, that's because I am. Well at least with one hand tied up holding baby.) So I publicly apologize that this year we are not making treat plates for our neighbors, decorating gingerbread houses, mailing Christmas cards or putting up lights on the outside of our house (although I still like to think that maybe Santa will do the lights when he comes... it just looks so sad and un-festive).

I have to admit that I spent the first part of December feeling a bit grinch-y. I had a lot going on and my main focus was survival. So many Christmas traditions seemed like just one more thing that creates extra work or an excuse for excess sugar. And who invented candy canes anyway? Do they have any idea what a sticky mess they make when given to a two-year-old? And why do my two older kids think that just because something is labeled "Christmas special" on TV, it means that they get to watch it regardless of how much TV they've already watched that day? (Oh yeah, they think that because mom is exhausted and has too much to do so she caves in.) Don't get me wrong, I'm not a scrooge at heart. I LOVED the Christmas season as a kid and I remember it being magical. I want it to be magical for my kids too, but I have come to the shocking realization that I am not... well, magic.

My mother had six children, so I'm sure that not every Christmas was picture-perfect at our house. If I think back, I think there were more years that our outside lights didn't make it up than years that they did. And we had a way of cherry-picking traditions at times (i.e. sometimes Christmas Eve was a festive dinner, sometimes it was pizza delivery). But I still remember loving it: they were always happy times, filled with love and warm memories.

Now, with the end of my slew of Christmas concerts, the Christmas season has officially kicked off for me. Things have become more calm and I have had more time to plan our family festivities. I started wrapping presents and checking items off my to-do list. My family is here (hooray!! hooray!!) and Dave has some days off work. (Honestly, I think whenever Dave has time off work that makes it a holiday for me.) But I still felt this yearning for that "Christmas magic" that I remember feeling as a child.

Yesterday I was driving in the car and I turned on the CD player. I felt irritated as I realized that once again I forgot to bring a Christmas CD out to the car. (How lame is it that I don't even have time to bring out a Christmas CD so I can feel festive while I drive around and run errands?) So I listened to the BYU Women's Chorus CD that was in. The song "Wondrous Love" came on:

"What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down
When I was sinking down, sinking down
When I was sinking down beneath God's righteous frown, Christ laid aside his crown for my soul."

It just struck me that this song is the essence of Christmas: Christ laid aside his crown- he came down from heaven, leaving his position as the Son of God, to become a helpless human baby- for my soul. I felt what an amazing gift it is-- that because of Christ we can return to God, in spite of all of our faults and human failings. I truly feel grateful for Christ and his willingness to lay aside his crown for me.

I'll be honest-- the worldly, materialistic part of me still wishes for a picture-perfect Christmas, filled with beautiful decorations, festive parties, handmade greeting cards and holiday cheer. A new baby definitely makes it more difficult to keep up with the "Martha Stewart" parts of Christmas. I just have to resign myself to the fact that, at least this year, our decorations, cards and other things will have to be on a lower scale (or nonexistent). [Who am I kidding? I'm not Martha Stewart even in a year when I don't have a baby.... =) Handmade greeting cards are not even on my list of aspirations... handmade caramel popcorn, maybe.]

I just try to remember that the very first Christmas was about a new baby. Even though they didn't have cameras to record it, I'm fairly certain it was not picture-perfect, despite what the artists who paint it would have you believe. The magic of Christmas is in spending time with those you love, sharing love with those who need it and remembering that Christ "laid aside his crown for my soul" --no elaborate decorations or handmade greeting cards required.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Christmas Program-- and the close of my holiday performances (phew)

Sunday night I finished my 6th and final Christmas performance. Phew.... I played the Hallelujah Chorus on the organ for a Christmas concert. While I am quite capable at playing the organ, I'm a pianist- not "an organist"- by profession, so playing difficult music on the organ is always a bit nerve-wracking. Regardless, I got through the experience mostly unscathed. ;)

Sunday was also our ward choir Christmas program (not to be confused with my Cantico Christmas concert which was last Friday). Up until even two weeks ago, the ward choir Christmas program was striking fear into my heart. Ward choir in so many ways is always a crapshoot: you don't audition the singers, nobody has to come, everyone in the ward [church congregation] is busy with families and other church responsibilities. You don't have a ton of rehearsal time to begin with. And then pretty much every week you have a different configuration of people and you never know who is or isn't going to show up. That's a scary thing to face as a choir director and an admitted control freak.

I knew up front that the Christmas program was going to come soon after I had a baby so I decided that I was going to pare it way down and just choose really simple music this year. And I really fully intended to.... But I looked and looked and I just didn't find anything that really inspired me or that I felt like singing. So finally I threw caution to the wind and just chose music that I really loved. Some of it was very difficult for a non-audition church choir (think Mack Wilberg/Mormon Tabernacle Choir arrangement...), but I had an accompanist who could play it so I decided to do it anyway. It was challenging music. And about two weeks ago, I was thinking, "What have I done? There's no way we're going to pull off this music. The program is going to be a fiasco and it's going to be all my fault for choosing music that was just too difficult."

We barely pulled together our Mack Wilberg arrangement in time for our stake [multi-congregation] Christmas choir concert last week. But we pulled it off, even with our two main sopranos being either sick or out of town. On Saturday morning we had our final run-through rehearsal to prepare for our church program on Sunday. At that rehearsal something magical happened... it suddenly came together-- all of it. People knew their parts and we started making music. It touched me in a way that many choirs that are much more technically proficient haven't. These volunteer singers were singing to share their love of our Savior and joy at his birth. Their hard work over so many weeks had paid off: the result was beautiful.

Ward choir has its quirks. And I have to admit that sometimes it drives me crazy. There are days when I think that I just can't do this anymore-- one more rehearsal with only 6 people showing up and I'm just going to lose it. But then there are days like Sunday, when I realize how blessed I am to be directing a group of singers who, while they do not have extensive musical training, come together and give their all to make music that shares the message of God's love for us.

Monday, December 14, 2009

And On We Go

Well, my concert is over and went really well. Four Christmas performances down, only two more to go.... One of my friends from the music department at BYU had as her facebook status update, "December is to musicians what April is to accountants." It is so true. The holidays don't really start for me until the 21st or so, when all of the Christmas concerts are done. I was hoping to have a cleaning marathon on my house on Saturday, but that didn't quite happen. I was hoping to do the cleaning marathon today, but Adelyn wanted to be held and nursed, so I was lucky to get the dishwasher loaded. Oh, to have a solid three-hour block to work on cleaning without getting interrupted! Maybe someday....

Friday, December 11, 2009

Concert Thoughts

Right now I'm sitting at my computer killing time while I am nursing Addy, so I figured I might as well write a blog post rather than wasting time.

There are only four hours and ten minutes until my Cantico concert tonight...... This isn't consuming my brain or life or anything. =] I'm actually not too nervous about tonight's performance. We've already done two smaller performances and they went really well. But regardless of that, I always get a little bit higher strung right before a performance.

Last night was our dress rehearsal and frankly, it was long and grueling. There were all kinds of logistical details to be taken care of and anything involving that many people just plain takes longer than you think it will. After being on a post-performance high all week, I came home exhausted. So many collective hours of work have gone into this performance...we've been rehearsing since September. And outside of rehearsal time there have been countless hours spent memorizing music, advertising, selling tickets, creating programs, coordinating everything under the sun.

Sometimes (like last night) I have moments where I think, "A person in my situation (with four young kids) has no business directing a group like this." It's easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of details that have to be taken care of, let alone the music. But somehow we all team up and make it work somehow. It seems like craziness sometimes, but I love doing it! Sometimes I feel like I need to pinch myself: I'm living one of my musical dreams- to have my own choir. It really is a fantastic group and I feel lucky to be a part of it, let alone one of the directors. It makes me grateful to live in the internet age, where I can do a lot of organization from my laptop while I nurse Addy (like I am right now). 

It's easy to get overwhelmed with all of the logistics of a concert like this (and believe me, I have). But the reason I do it is because I LOVE the music that we sing. It makes me so happy to have that music as a part of my life. But being able to sing and direct that music with an amazing group of musicians -- and to be able to share that music in a concert with a full house of people is just almost too great to believe.

Well, Addy's done nursing. Time's up. I need to go curl my hair and finish some other last-minute details. I'll come out on stage tonight looking calm and professional and nobody need know that the director who looks so confident and together onstage has a secret alter-ego as a housewife whose dishes pile in the sink and kitchen floor has several days-worth of crumb accumulation from all of her concert preparation. (Can we say "Saturday cleaning marathon, coming up"?)

Here's to music!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Coming Up for Air

So I guess my month of daily blog posting met an early demise. Maybe next year.... This past week has been full of craziness. The choir that I direct had its first two performances this week. They were both short 30-minute performances at other events (the Grotto Festival of Lights and the Festival of the Nativities in Vancouver). Between last-minute babysitting changes, memorizing music, planning for next season and trying to arrange all of the final details for our "big" concert this coming Friday, I have been in over my head (as I knew I would be... keep chanting to self "You can make it- you're almost there... You can make it- you're almost there."). So I'm taking a quick gulp of air before I submerge myself in concert preparations for the next week.

But the concert is going to be fabulous. If you're going to be in the area it's not too late to get tickets on our website. So, yes, this is what has been absorbing my time and postponing the commitment to paper of all of the blog posts forming in my head. You'll just have to wait in suspense for the next anxiously-anticipate post from K kid. (Humor me, here, okay?) ;)