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Singing for Christmas

Singing for Christmas

Continuing my obsession with voices...

One of the unfortunate drawbacks of being a full-time pianist is that I no longer get to sing much. I do love to sing. I don't have a solo quality voice, but if you need a solid alto in your choir or small group, I'd be happy to step in. And my sight-reading skills are stellar. 

Our church has a long history of a capella singing. We have some song leaders who are comfortable with leading the congregation without accompaniment—giving me an opportunity to participate—but that doesn't happen as often as I would like. Last Sunday, our closing song was "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," a very old, very beautiful plainsong hymn that is one of my favorites. I asked the song leader if he would lead it a capella and he readily agreed. When our hymnal came out 20 years ago, it included a lot of creative arrangements of songs. (I'm being diplomatic.) In order to save space in the hymnal, there is a separate accompaniment book for the pianist which contains accompaniments that aren't printed in the hymnal. 

[Mennonite Church USA has since released two additional hymnal supplements, each with its own separate accompaniment book, which means that I have had Sundays where I am playing out of six separate books. It's enough to drive any pianist around the bend. And MCUSA is currently working on a new hymnal for 2020 that is supposed to contain something like 800 songs (!). I am terrified to see what the accompaniment book for that one ends up looking like.]

The arrangement of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" in our hymnal only has piano accompaniment for the refrain. The verses are written as just the melody line and with the barest of notation, presumably to allow for broad musical interpretation by the song leader. The accompaniment book has nothing. I've tried to get around this problem by playing the accompaniment for that hymn out of the old Mennonite hymnal—which I refer to as "the red hymnal" because our new hymnal is blue—but the timing is just different enough between the two versions that I am playing something other than what the congregation is singing. I've decided that best course of action for that hymn is not to play at all. 

I am up at the front of the church, so I get the benefit of hearing all the voices behind me. I wish I could have recorded us singing "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" last week. The sensation of being awash in a sea of voices is hard to describe. We have enough strong singers—and we have all sung together for so long—that we really do sing as an ensemble, riding the ebb and flow of the music together. We sang the verses in unison but then broke into parts for the refrain. The sound was amazing. 

Our choir is singing one song at the Christmas Eve service. When our church was twice the size it is now, with twice as many singers, we often did a 30-minute cantata as part of the Christmas Eve service. We've had to pare things down a bit since then, but this year I also get to sing as part of a quartet with my friends Elaine, Ken, and Steve. They are all siblings and have been singing together since they were children. Their mother, Esther, had a beautiful alto voice and is the only reason I am able to sing the alto part to "Lo, How a Rose E're Blooming." (It's a tough part but she patiently taught it to me and to the other altos.) The four of us got together yesterday afternoon to figure out what we wanted to sing at the Christmas Eve service. I brought a song from the Harmonia Sacra, which is a Mennonite songbook in the tradition of the Sacred Harp and other shaped note songbooks. It was a ridiculously difficult song but we tried it anyway and had a good laugh. We then pulled out three or four other hymnals and sang through a bunch of songs, eventually settling on one. It was an enjoyable hour and a half together. 

Tomorrow night, a group of us is getting together for our annual Christmas caroling event. We carol in four parts, too. I look forward to it every year. 


I looked through my vast collection of presser feet for the industrial Necchi and realized that I only had a straight-stitch Teflon foot, so I ordered a few more to round out the collection:


I am going to need them if I am sewing vinyl. Now I have the straight stitch foot, an edgestitching foot, a 1/8" compensating topstitching foot, and two narrow zipper feet—one right and one left. The zipper feet are black Teflon, which seems to be a new product, at least where presser feet are concerned. They appear to be metal with a thin Teflon coating. I am curious to see how they compare to the traditional white Teflon. Maybe if Carol or Cristina have used them, they can offer some insight. 

After singing yesterday, I went to town to run errands and stopped at Jo-Ann Fabrics to pick up the faux fur for covering the seat of DD#2's chair. I also picked up a remnant of home dec fabric that I've had my eye on for a couple of weeks. I need to get off my butt and make myself an overnight bag. That is going to be my first project of 2019, I think. 

The husband off to saw cut a concrete slab this morning. My tasks for today are to get the Christmas tree put up and to clean my office and set up the new Mac. I know I won't need the PC for the next two weeks, so I can put it away for at least that long. 

That New Mac Smell

That New Mac Smell

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