Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmastime is Here

Today is Christmas Day and so Merry Christmas to you, dear reader! I wanted to tell you about my day yesterday, on Christmas Eve. I went to work at the hospital and played for some people in ICU.  On my route, I went to check in on a patient I played for last week. When I arrived at his room, the nurse gave me the news he was going home!   I went in his room and there he was, all dressed with his coat on and his belongings all packed up and ready to go.   His wife stood by his side and I said, "Merry Christmas!"  Then I got out my guitar and started to sing, "Joy to the World" and his wife joined in. As we stood singing, my new friend began to cry tears of joy for going home on the holiday. We only had a few more minutes to visit before the hospital staff came to escort him to the parking lot.  He said, "when this is all over, I am going to call you up and invite you to come over and sing with us!"

Later, I was playing some holiday music on my guitar in the lobby when a man approached and asked if I also sang. He said he wanted to harmonize with me and so we sang a bunch of carols together. I loved how our voices blended and the people going by smiled as they listened. Then he sang a few by himself as I accompanied him on the guitar before he said he had to go to see his family up in the room he was visiting.

Just a couple of glimpses to show why I love to play on Christmas at the hospital. I also want to mention the many staff members who cheerfully looked on as I played and said they were also working today on Christmas Day. I plan to return today in hopes to brighten someone's holiday.
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice and the darkest days

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. We are in the darkest time of year and it is a New Moon too. So if you live away from street lights, it's pretty dark out at night. I see it as a metaphor for this time of year too. With Christmas looming ahead, there is the pressure of shopping, family gatherings, parties and the like. So what happens if you are an introvert? Or of you don't like parties?  I have learned it is ok to be quiet amidst the noise and bustle.

I am reminded of something from a guitar class I took many years ago. There was an ensemble of guitarists that performed and with them onstage was someone standing there without a guitar. He did not speak or play a note of music. Later we were told he was "holding the silence."  How cool is that?  I'd like to have that job once in awhile.   To be a holder of silence amid the noise and busyness would be a nice gift to bring to the world, don't you think so?

These last few weeks though I have been bringing music to people in all kinds of places. Nursing homes, hospital, the gym, day care centers, homes. There is something extra special about this time of year too because most people think of it as a joyous time but I see a lot of sadness too. We are thinking of another  year gone by, people we have not seen or who have passed on. We forget that the solstice and Christmas time is also about sadness and not just joy. We can't have one without the other.

I will never forget I once worked for someone who said to me one day when i was sad, "I LOVE to be sad!!!" I thought it was so odd. And yet what a great attitude to have. Embrace life and full spectrum of color and experience.

Now to finish wrapping some presents. Hope you are enjoying the shortest day of the year. :)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Twelve Daze of Christmas

Singing with groups can be such great fun and some days really stand out over others. Yesterday was such a day when I played at two adult day care centers and later a reception at the new Battle Building Children's Hospital at UVA. 

There is no better feeling than singing with a group who loves to sing. Christmas carols often inspire people who normally do not sing to join in. Everyone knows the words, even elderly or special needs who are non verbal.

Something that has made it challenging for me is that my friend Mary Gordon Hall and I have sung "Mixed Up Carols" for many years.  It's where you take the melody of a one song and sing the words of different carol to it. The problem is, sometimes I can't remember how the songs really go!

Yesterday I got a request to sing, "The Twelve Days of Christmas." This is one carol I haven't really sung regularly and it is a very tricky song to sing!  I was tongue tied many times and it was a good thing the staff was there to help me along!  We did have some good laughs and bringing the holiday cheer is what it is all about!

Pictured is the big Christmas tree at the new Children's hospital at UVA.  I played my solo guitar rendition of "The First Noel" among other holiday favorites. Such a great day and Merry Christmas everyone! 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Beer & Hymns bring festive cheer

Last night I attended a most unique and enjoyable event that takes place at Trinity Pub on the 1st Monday nights of the month across from the U.Va campus. "Beer and Hymns"   has been happening for 3 years and enjoys a pretty good attendance. Last night about 30 people gathered to sing Christmas hymns from the St. Mark Lutheran Church hymn books.  There is no better feeling that being in a room full of people who love to sing. Even better--who sing well! The harmonies that wove through the room were heavenly! I absolutely loved it. 

Here's another thing. You don't have to be a church goer to love to sing hymns. A friend of mine who sings in a sacred music ensemble said about the event, "I love to sing hymns, even as an atheist."  Hymns were written with group singing in mind to uplift those who sing and lift them up out of the mundane.  Singing hymns with a group makes you feel bathed in beautiful sounds that wash away daily concerns. It makes you feel, "Everything is right. Everything is going to be ok." 

We live in such time of suffering and conflict and darkness. Now with the holidays approaching, I am aware that many people become more depressed as the pressure to be happy and with family (where some do not have) looms ahead. One way to think about it is that all religious parables are about finding light within the darkest days. If you should find yourself feeling down at this time, then you are aligning yourself with all seekers who looked for the light out of the darkness. 

If you live in town, consider coming! Here is an NPR story about the local Beer & Hymns gatherings. Enjoy and happy singing!