Behind the Musical Scene at Christmas

December 28, 2009

Very few people indeed have any idea of the work — either its nature or extent — that goes on in the preparation of Christmas music in a major establishment. Having spent much of my career in running large church-music programs, I’m particularly grateful when even a glimpse of one aspect of it is presented to the public. Hence my appreciation of this rather charming BBC spot. (There will always be inaccuracies in mass-media: Easter music is “very sad and depressing”? Or is Winchester shakey in one aspect of education? Well, today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, a day when, formerly, children were allowed to rule their elders and a chorister even dressed as a bishop and ordered adult clerics around.)

The sense of responsibility, introduction to intense teamwork, and administrative skills that choral music can give children in a well-run program are enormous. The first head boy of my choir at St. Ignatius Loyola is now a leading foreign correspondent for ABC news, and the first head girl is active in the casting of films (which must be a little like some of what I did in those days). One of the boys who most tested my disciplinary ingenuity is now a fierce music educator, and another whom we all loved was killed in 9/11 under circumstances that did him honor. Yes, choral music is a great preparation for a good life.

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