I was just telling my mom the other day, in anticipation of bringing two nonmusician friends and an aunt who has sung in church choirs to the Symphony Christmas Pops she got us comps for, that "music getting me into the Christmas spirit" is not really an attribute that I contain at this point in my life. She agreed. It's a bit of a job. I've been doing it for over ten years. Maybe fifteen. Not that I didn't enjoy the symphony concert, or bringing my friends to it, or hearing Jessica and Santino Fontana; I did. I liked the new pops conductor, and approved of both his conducting and his charisma, though I was sorry to see Krajewski go. It's just not really in me to hear Christmas music without analyzing and/or comparing it to my fairly extensive experience.
Tonight I heard the King's Singers' Christmas show. I actually skipped a concert-week pre-dress-rehearsal to go.
It's not that I forget what it's like, though of course the experience is never as immediate in memory. I just can't continually reexperience the memory. There is nothing like knowing what you are doing, to a fairly high degree, and watching people do it who are pretty nearly the best in the world at it. All these things, that you know are hard, you know exactly how hard, from personal experience, and they're executed flawlessly, or with tiny, generally-imperceptible flaws you know the difficulty of masking and have known yourself to share, and you never have to worry that the pitfalls you know are in the music or the text will catch them, and you never have to worry that they won't make it to the end of the phrase, and you never have to worry that the cold you can tell someone is nursing will overcome their balance in the mix, and every other bar there is a feat of ensemble or individual musicality of a depth to make you sigh and slouch in your chair with sheer relief of musical tension, except that you know more moments are coming, the entire performance is made of them, and if you move you might miss one.
It's not that it's Christmas music, though I do think the 2006 Christmas album is among their best ever, and I am therefore sentimentally attached to every piece of repertoire on it (three of which they did tonight). But the commitment of performers to the premise of any performance will improve my relationship to it, whatever it is. And there is an awful lot of high-quality concentration of arrangers, composers, and poets on the subject. I do feel more Christmasy now. But I feel even more King's Singersy, which is an even rarer and more special occasion.
They stayed after the show to greet and chat, and were immensely sweet and gracious as usual. We introduced ourselves to the new soprano. My mom grabbed a Typical Parent Embarrassment opportunity with both hands, in the middle of explaining we were summer school attendees, when she realized she had literally said we were "camp followers", to say, you know, if she had the chance... Hopefully Pat will not hold it against us. I am not sure he knew how to react. Julian, whom we'd met in Dallas, has grown into the tenor spot admirably, and was sweetly shy when I told him so. Johnny, Tim, Gabbitas, and Bruiser were all appropriately excited for me when I pointed the overleaf to them. Because, look:
As I said to them, "feel free to scribble on yourself. That's you... and this is me." Bruiser and Johnny in particular were excited that it was this coming weekend, and asked me to point myself out despite the tiny size of the choir in the photo, and asked what the rep was. They were appropriately enthusiastic for Ceremony of Carols, and I told them a little bit about Dominick to explain the premiere of his men's Verbum Caro Factum Est.
They are sweet as I remember them, and even sweeter Tim, whose new kid has perhaps mellowed him a little bit (and given him something to talk about with my mom). It makes a difference in the performance, when the guy at the end throwing faces at you thanks you after the show for being there to throw faces at. One more exemplar of my heroes being real humans and that making them even better heroes.