The First Day of Christmas

Each week, I have anywhere between six and eleven rehearsals. Yesterday, however, was my favorite of the entire year: the first Christmas rehearsal.

I realize it is only mid-October, but for musicians it might as well be the first day of Christmas. Spooky season and Christmas tend to blend together if you’re a musician…or Tim Burton. By necessity, musicians begin preparing for Christmas at least a month ahead of everybody else—except Hobby Lobby.

Yesterday evening was the first Christmas rehearsal for one of my choirs. We spent a marvelous four hours sightreading festive music, some familiar and some new. Unlike other rehearsals, there was (relatively) little stopping and starting; instead, we plowed on valiantly with our alleluias and glorias. Total accuracy mattered less than getting the feel of the music, tuning our voices and hearts to a new season.

To my delight (and mild terror), we will be performing the magnificent Randol Alan Bass “Gloria.” I first encountered this piece as a freshman in college and did my best to sight read it for church choir rehearsals. Unsurprisingly, I did not succeed. The second time I attempted this piece, I was prepared, but I took comfort in knowing that an orchestra would be playing it and that I only had to learn the bones for rehearsals.

This year, my director informed me that I am the orchestra. Just me and the piano.

I will doubtless spend hours on this piece. Last night, though, I was able to enjoy getting reaquainted with this hard-won friend. I could see not only the massive amount of work that it will require, but could also glimpse the triumph of performing it successfully in a couple of months.

As I savored this rehearsal and its music, I began to wonder: How would our lives differ if we all prepared for Christmas like musicians?

Children naturally look forward to Christmas, but they don’t necessarily work for it. What if we set about preparing our hearts for Christmas even in October? What if we practiced our carols so that, when Christmas arrives, we can sing even the middle verses from memory? Or we studied the Christmas story so that it becomes a part of us, not merely a yearly tradition?

I will have to rehearse, “Gloria in excelsis Deo” daily until I can play it accurately every time—especially once the performance nerves hit. What if we did the same? Practicing joy and righteousness so that, when the chaos of the holidays do finally hit, we are ready to navigate them with truer, holier actions and attitudes? What if “Glory to God in the Highest” became our daily, hourly cry instead of simply an annual chorus?

In the meantime, I invite you to enjoy this wonderful recording of the Bass “Gloria.” If you can reach the end without dancing in your seat or shouting for joy, then maybe you just need more practice.

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