I woke before dawn, the sky strangely light from low clouds reflecting the city. By the time I finished meditating, they’d turned a faint pink. I kept hoping for garish spectacle, but instead got gray skies–only now the sun is streaming in the window and dark clouds are drifting by overhead. A can’t-make-up-its-mind sort of day.
I can’t make up my mind, either, a list of things in my head I need to do, but feeling tired and sore after a restless night. I’d rather stay home and bake things. Today is 12-12-12, however, and Christmas looms. If it weren’t for the grandchildren, I might just ignore the whole thing this year, but the four-year-old still believes in Santa and even the older ones are still dazzled by the magic of it all, so I will make an effort. Once I get going, I do love the colored lights and the communal festivities and, above all, the music. Ahh, the music!
I have a wonderful CD called “Sing We Christmas” by Chanticleer, with both old and modern hymns and carols performed by an unaccompanied men’s ensemble, such a pure and beautiful sound, rich basses and lovely soaring falsettos. I’ve heard them in concert several times at St. Ignatius, a hilltop Jesuit church with twin spires and a rather odd mixture of Baroque and Renaissance architectural styles, but fine acoustics. They’re so good they make you shiver. My husband hates Christmas music, but even he likes Chanticleer. Also my CD by the Christmas Revels–six centuries of European Christmas music, including my favorite, “Strike Up Your Instruments of Joy,” originally from an 18th c. collection called Pills to Purge Melancholy by John Barrett:
Rebecs, shawms and curtals trace
A thousand golden ways;
Clarions and rackets race
To join in lovely praise.
How can you resist a verse that has three words you’ve never heard of in the first line?A rebec, for those as ignorant as I, is (was) a pear-shaped, two-stringed or three-stringed medieval instrument, played with a bow; a shawm is a double-reed wind instrument, forerunner of an oboe; and a curtal is a predecessor of the bassoon. Some of them might be seen here, purging melancholy: