31 December 2007

Christmas! It’s always been a special time of the year for me. Never because of presents and parties – although I enjoy a good bash and a well-thought-out present as much as the next person… It’s always been about atmosphere. About slowing it down, and taking stock. About coming to the end of something by accepting the truth of something new.
I do see the religious meaning of Christmas as a symbol for how we can open our hearts to that which is new, innocent, joyous and creative – even in the midst of the darkest night we may be experiencing. That the light of hope shines no matter what – And that it actually changes the present, not just some outcome eventually. It impacts how one IS now, hope does…

Besides being home with my family in Stockholm for the first time in eight years, which was wonderful, I had the great fortune of performing in a couple of Christmas events that tickled me to no end.
The first was a series of Holiday Concerts with the Malmö Symphony. I do love this orchestra. They “get” me on some level, and I feel at home with them. The program ranged from one minute singing the big aria from Don Carlos, and the next doing a vintage kids TV-program skit about a Christmas tree made out of the letter “F” with one of my childhood icons, Magnus Härenstam… Hard to explain the monumental meaning of this honor to non-Swedes, but, it’s sort of like being asked to act out the Toga Party scene in Animal House with John Belushi… (except without the nudity and alcohol).
Anyway, it included singing the F-song(!!), an evening dress, a giant F which turns into a Christmas Tree, an orchestra, snowFlakes and Flags and dancing… And, being completely charmed beyond repair by my co-star…
I also got to sing one of my favorite Christmas songs – Cradle in Bethlehem, with a muted shmaltzy orchestra and a true MGM-sounding Men’s Chorus backing me up. I don’t often sing standards with a microphone, but it was so much fun. There is something amazing when the audience just doesn’t want to breathe or make a noise after a song. It’s a magical sense of one-ness…

On Christmas Eve, I got to sing in a small church on an island where my best friend lives. It was a surprise for her parents and parents-in-law to have me be there singing, and given that these are people who are very dear to me and who have supported me for so long, it was amazing. My friend accompanied me on the piano on several wonderful songs, and then at the end, her husband and her two daughters came up and we sang the final song together – a more contemporary Christmas song, with a beautiful message. It was all us adults could do, just holding back the tears, frankly.

The night before, holding Champagne glasses amid candle light in their idyllic country home, we thought we should at least run through the songs for the service. But when her youngest daughter, age 8, started singing the first verse, I immediately started crying. Tears falling I looked up at my friend’s husband, and he was teary too. Not to mention tears dripping onto the keys at the piano. We just couldn’t help it. She was just so fearless and sweet, singing clearly as a bell, delivering the text like she’s never done anything but… Both girls are so precious!

Having the opportunity to be part of her family, and share a small “von Trapp” moment was the most special Christmas gift anyone could have given me. Getting back to basics, sharing music and the promise of Christmas with 50 odd people in a small church is as profound as it gets. Singing with my best friend at the piano was truly beautiful – Because she’s a business woman who sings and plays for fun, because she asked me to share my voice with her community, and because she allowed me the sweet joy of sharing Christmas with her family. After everything we’ve been through in life, making music together is pure blessing!

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