The most wonderful and wonderous day of the year… every year
The most wonderful and wonderous day of the year….. every year. Regardless of age or perspective, so many of us are excited (or trying not to be excited) about so many things. It is the opportunity to give or to receive whatever we have wanted or needed, or would never have considered. It is a chance to demonstrate, without awkwardness, longing, love, loyalty or any combination of the three. For some, it is the rare occasion for well deserved rest, for others it is a quiet time to work in peace and be relieved.
There has been more than month-long build up of carols and carolling, sales and selling, seeking and finding and finally, we are finally here. Whew….Christmas Day!
There is the ceremonial opening of presents, family games (some of which will end in bickering if not injury), the hard fought victories in the kitchen that will be celebrated far into the future as well as the culinary defeats that will be joked about almost as long, the viewing and reviewing of pictures and videos from the past and the taking of new ones, the reminiscing and forgetting, the partially watched basketball game on tv, the biennial (if not annual) dysfunctional family row, and the ever-riveting ritual of the gifts: opening and playing with them, breaking of them, fighting over them, loving them or debating over returning them, the showing off of them, the guilt of having them, the hurtful lack of them, the eye-opening paying for them, the gracious giving and the grateful receiving of them, yes, the whole wonderful madness about them, them, them!
And beyond even them, this season engenders a general communal good feeling and geniality that greases the friction of everyday life. We must savor today because tomorrow, we march onward.
So let’s revel in the soaring expectations that have been met or that couldn’t possibly be met or have actually been surpassed. Let’s honor the tears of expectation, excitement, and ecstasy, that have been, and could easily once again be the salty drops of disappointment, distress and depression.
Let’s bask in the warmth and comfort of family and friends with voices raised in a symphony of good feeling, as there is also loneliness, and loss, and a graveyard of anguished hearts shattering in the mocking indifference and deafening silence of unwanted solitude. Let us allow the possibility, plausibility and presence of this deep, deep pain to cause an even more intense and joyous celebration, because happiness and its pursuit is the ultimate triumph over the gravitational forces of apathy, sorrow and resignation that always attempt to pull us down far far below our powerful personal potential to manifest change.
And deep below the bottom of it all, like a super sub-woofer playing bass notes you’ll never hear but feel feel feel, is a story that was not even new when Jesus’ name was affixed to it. It was not Western or Eastern or even any book religion, not a tale of gender, generation, race, or perspective. The story of a virgin birth and a Savior and lost people and choices about their past, present and future. A very very elemental message from some someone whose birthright was to end up on a cross in gory sacrifice for the glory of saying and displaying, “Your enemy is you. Love each other.”
It’s more radical now than it was when it was first whispered, shouted and sung long long long before all the known prophets, religions and wars. That story was right here. Somebody who knew had to tell. They were born to die for showing us how to love one another. It’s hard enough to love people in your own family, how could a Savior possibly expect us to love “others”?
That’s what getting up on that cross was about…..choice, because coming together is a matter of choosing balance, not forcing capitulation.
This first selection is movement 8 of All Rise. It features all families: Brass and Percussion, Woodwinds and Strings. The Jazz Orchestra acts as a Greek chorus commenting on the action and stringing things together. The opening theme played by the French Horns is a derivation of a folk song sung to me by some traveling musicians from Mali (I think). The orchestra brass plays music influenced by the Renaissance harmonies and dance movements. The fantastically played orchestral trumpet solo (by who I believe is Donald Green) and the Jazz trumpet solo (by Marcus Printup who grew up in the church) represents different aspects of the voice of the Ancient of Days. I added the choral part at the very end about a year after the premiere because I dreamt it. The words, the static key of F, the meaning…all of it I just wrote out with no artifice. The bouncing of the choir represents the spinning of the earth and the heavens.
This second selection is Our Father from my Abyssinian Mass. I am always led to combine traditional chorale writing with the blues. This is an example of that technique. In an earlier post, I mentioned my high school theory teacher in high school, Dr. Bert Braud. He taught us how to analyze Bach’s chorales. What I didn’t say in the story was that he just leafed through the pages of the harmonizations I had done of over 350 chorales and said,“That’s a good start,” and handed it quickly back to me. It checked my pride and let me know that he expected us to work, and that the experiencing and knowledge of great music is endless. I am happy to remember and recognize him and that today.
The message of Abyssinian Mass is “Everyone Has a Place in the House of God.” It will be released next year on Blue Engine Records.