My First Christmas Present

Before I start today’s column, I have a request. Will whoever is giving my sister, Deb, clever suggestions for our family Christmas get-together such as “ugly sweater contest” and “Yankee Swap” please stop? You are tearing at the very fiber of our celebration, or at least causing me to roll my eyes often enough to cause strain. GN


My First Christmas Present

I go to Christmas concerts mostly to support family members who are participating in them. I do this as my family did for me. I expect some Christmas standards, some religious numbers and maybe something contemporary. Last week, I got more than what I expected.

We attended the Lincoln High School (Thief River Falls, Minnesota) Choral Department’s, “Forever Sing with Joy” last Saturday night. I was immediately struck by how nice the auditorium looked; simple streamers, lights and just the right amount of shadows made it all quite inviting. As the concert began, I felt expectation in the air but had no idea of what was tom come except for what I’d been told.

Director Darcy Reese is an impressive woman; she commands the stage without overtly drawing attention to herself. Her work as a director shows in how well the choir follows her movement; I could focus on her movement and hear her emotions sung by the choir. At one point, the very talented Voce group of seventh and eighth graders were not centered on the risers, their director gave them one subtle move and they found their spots within seconds. Director Reese then turned to those of us in the theatre seats and said in a stage whisper, “they’re new;” the perfectly placed ad-lib.

The processional gave such a sense of occasion; choir members entered singing from all parts of the room which really got my attention. We were treated to everything from traditional Christmas standards during the Community Sing-Along (yes, I did join in) to a serving of “cool” from the Swingsations group. I thought the Concert Choir’s selection of “Ritmo” was really courageous as this large group used every part of themselves to create rhythm, however they carried the day perfectly. It really reminded of how those who make something look easy come to that point only as a result of great effort.

Seventh grade piano player Aaron Fagerstrom plainly and simply rocked, enough said. I really enjoyed the Sayler boys efforts on violin and mandolin during the sing-along also. I think the moment that truly gave me Christmas was the song, “Breath of Heaven,” as sung by Becca Kruta. This song deals with the overwhelming feelings that Mary likely bore when she carried Jesus. The vulnerability, self-doubt and even fear that must have been Mary’s made her plight so real that it made sad enough that I wanted to leave my tiny seat. I thought about not only Mary’s burden but all of those who carry more than their load in life. It would be nice to learn through pleasant experience but pain also makes us grow. I grew in my sorrowful empathy for Mary and it made me understand one more aspect of this beautiful holiday; thank-you for that.

This concert gave my heart just the right amount of squeeze to really enter the holiday mood. It was also an incredible opportunity to hear sounds and ideas that are different from our own. There wove a tapestry of superlatives above the exiting crowd to which I did not add; I could only tell me wife that this experience was “really good.” However, Lisa knows me well enough to understand what I meant. I left the concert elevated and with a desire to do better in my own life which I still have almost a week later. It was a wonderful gift, my first Christmas present of the season.

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