I have a confession to make: I really like Christmas carols.
As a musician, and especially as a church musician, traditionally I’m supposed to hate them. They’re really old and the same ones get dragged out every year, and no matter how creative you get with them, there’s really no way to do them except in the traditional style; almost every attempt to update them, jazz them or rock them ends up destroying them. Like most people, carols drive me around the twist when they start coming out in shopping centres in October, because those are usually the versions that have been killed by one of the aforementioned attempts to modernise them.
But I still have a soft spot for a good hearty rendition of the old favourites. I've written before about how inherently powerful they are and I still stand by that.
I think some of the reason is that I’m a pianist. The ones who really hate carols are usually guitarists who spend the whole time complaining about how many chord changes there are in old style carols. This has always struck me as kind of wussy. Honestly, if you’re going to insist on playing an instrument that is all about chords, surely the ones with lots of chords are going to be the most fun, if possibly a little more difficult than playing normal church music, which tends to have no more than four chords, in a predictable repetitive pattern. Here’s looking at you, Hills.
Meanwhile, this Christmas has gone a little strangely. Normally it’s a time when I’m run off my feet getting from one carols service to the next for a full fortnight. This year due to Earnest I got as close as Christmas Eve without playing or even hearing a single one. I missed out on Darwin carols by candlelight and accidently slept through the Melbourne one that they always put on TV. I usually like that one, except most of my memories are of trying to listen to the music while my mother and sister, after a glass or so of wine, have arguments about whether the singer’s dress is showing more or less leg than is appropriate for this time of year, and how much weight she might have put on or lost since the last time she appeared on Australian TV, which was probably in Sea Patrol.
Actually, probably not. I don’t think that’s on Channel Nine. Come to think of it, I don’t know if it’s on at all anymore.
I don’t watch much television.
The point is, I didn’t really get a chance for a big nostalgic sing along this year, and although I’m prepared to accept that I have only myself to blame for that, I found myself feeling more than a little hard done by as I read Facebook accounts of the massive carols services being put on by my old church in Kirribilli. That thing has only gotten bigger since I left. It’s out of control I tell you.
My big chance finally came on Christmas morning. All the guitarists had gone on holidays, or fled in wussy fear of multiple chord harmonies. I was just me, Samantha, a drummer and a singer. This was going to be awesome. I conducted an online poll to find the most popular carols (yes, it was on my Facebook wall. Shut up), picked the least obscure verses and came up with whatever harmonies I damn well wanted. A Christmas miracle!
Unfortunately the cliché of Christmas being the only well attended service for the year doesn’t seem to hold true in pentecostal churches. The twice-a-year mob all seem to go to the bigger congregations in town, and all our regulars were on holidays, sick or frantically running around trying to organise a nativity play which was supposed to be put on by people who were on holidays or sick. By the time you took all the kids out and put them in the nativity play, the congregation had about a dozen people at most. But that was alright, we still sang with joy and gusto. We didn’t exactly lift the roof. We didn’t exactly know all the words. But we had fun, and we got the service through in under forty minutes, which left just enough time to go home, open presents, finish getting lunch ready and start writing Christmas blog posts. Or whatever.
Garry with 2 Rs