Being a Musician at Christmas…The Santa “Clause”

I recently came across this picture on Facebook… It was posted to the Kansas City Symphony Chorus Facebook page and it brought a giggle to me!

Now most people that know me know that I’ve sung with the Kansas City Symphony Chorus for some 25 years. They also know that I’m pretty much “persona in absentia” from Thanksgiving until just a couple of days before Christmas between Symphony gigs, church jobs, and other performance-related things. My truth, the truth reflected in this picture, is that I usually end up cramming at the last minute to get my Christmas tree up and the various decorations we like to have out and around the house.

“So why bother?” someone might ask… Well, my truth is that it bothers me a lot that I don’t seem to have any “family time” for most of the month of December.

Again “WHY?!?!?!” Well, I was feeling pretty bad about that tonight. I was missing being home, missing watching a Chiefs game, and another weekend goes by without the Christmas stuff out! Then just before we went on stage for the Saturday night symphony concert one of our chorus leadership pointed out that tonight we would be bringing our music to over 1,100 people that had bought tickets to Christmas Festival and then quickly added that over the course of this crazy, insane week of daily round-trips to the city, teaching, and my other job that we would be touching over 8,000 people, most of whom bring their kids to this annual concert series.

I had a momentary flashback of something I once wrote in my band members handbook when I was teaching high school band. It said something to the effect that talent was a special gift, a blessing meant to be shared with others and that means that we, who are thusly blessed, have an obligation to give of our time and talents for the entertainment and enrichment of the lives of others. As I listened to the beautiful voices of the Allegro Children’s Chorus performing “Moment of Silence” I found myself pondering that these young ladies could be anywhere else tonight. They could be out with their friends, hanging out at a skating rink or meeting friends at a movie but they weren’t. They were giving up the entirety of their time outside of school to SING! As “Silent Night” came from them my usual tears started flowing (it’s a long story for another time, suffice it to say I’ve NEVER been able to sing this wonderful Christmas carol my entire life without choking up…)

As I sat in the darkened Helzberg Hall and heard those girls singing beautifully, I was reminded why I do this annual exercise in exhaustion and schedule juggling: I love to see the faces of the kids that come out to these shows and knowing that making music with 200+ musicians brings so much joy and pleasure to the lives of these people. When Santa shows up (and, amazingly enough, he ALWAYS seems to find a way to pop into Helzberg Hall for every concert!) those kids in the audience instantly pop up tall in their seats and the huge smiles break out! Man, is THAT something special, or WHAT? Even more, when 1,100 people stand up and sing along with Santa, the orchestra, Rezound Bell Choir, Allegro, and the Symphony Chorus it’s just pure magic!

For a couple hours out of the day, everyone can put aside their worries, their fears, and just experience the joy of the Christmas season. (BTW: We even had a menorah and gold foil-wrapped chocolate ‘coins’ back stage!) Man, in this crazy, screwed up world we can find a way to come together and it’s about music and that’s pretty amazing in my book!

Santa makes each of us feel a little better about ourselves, he makes us treat others a little better, and he can pull us all together in a spirit of hope, love, and giving of ourselves. That’s MY Santa “Clause” and it’s not even the fine print on the business card border!

I’ve been doing this stuff my entire life and, yes, sometimes I think I should take a Christmas off but no matter how tired I am or how much that two hours of driving seems to get more and more ponderous every year, when I get to Kauffman I pretty quickly forget how tired I am or how dreary that drive was…

Ya, it’s worth it!

I hope that our students all have a wonderful Christmas and that they find their own Santa “Clause”, too!

3 Replies to “Being a Musician at Christmas…The Santa “Clause”

  1. OK. OK. OK already! Have had several people wanting to hear the Silent Night story, so here it is…

    One of my earliest memories is of Christmas Eve at good ol’ Redeemer Lutheran in Marshall. I’m guessing I was about 4 years old, dressed up like a little cherub in my lily white half robe and a huge red bow that Mrs. Hellwege – the minister’s wive who was like everyone’s second mother – carefully safety pinned on each of us.

    Now mind you, I hadn’t had any “issues” and had my line in the recitation all memorized and ready to say it. I remember (vaguely – it HAS been 55-ish years ago!) doing my part and then we were supposed to sing Silent Night. All I really remember was that I started crying while we were singing and my mom came up and got me and I ended up being held in her lap while everyone else sang. Something about that song just cut right through to my soul, even as a pre-schooler, I guess.

    Fast forward a year… Same annual little kids Christmas program and same result (sans having to be in mom’s lap) but the tears started flowing as soon as we started singing “Silent Night” and the rest, shall we say, is ‘history.’ I’ve never been able to sing through more than about half of the first verse before I’m unable to sing!

    Ever since then “Silent Night” has had the same effect. I truly love this song and it is, without a doubt, my very favorite song of all time. It only takes a few bars before the eyes fill up. Maybe it goes all the way back to feeling safe and cared for in mom’s arms, maybe it’s more than even that…

    Tears of joy on hearing my special song…

    Tears of love for my mom and our special relationship…

    Tears of remembrance of kindly Mrs. Hellwege who treated us all like her own children (and taught me how to play dominos!)…

    Tears of happiness of all the memories of Christmas as a child…

    Tears of hope that I will never stop being moved to tears by this special song and that it will always be that way…

  2. Your essay is wonderful. I am one of the Allegro parents, and this is the 5th year of “hell week”, with the juggling, the drive through dinners, and the commute. We are so lucky to have an amazing carpool to share the ride, and our girls know that they are forgoing other activities and love the opportunity to share their love of the music and the chance to perform with like minded musicians. Thank you! Happy Holidays!

  3. A beautiful reflection ..thank you!
    My daughter is also in Allegro and drives now!!(cue Hallelujah Chorus!)

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