Blog: Joy to the music makers

Seasonal reflections from our Chief Executive Barbara Eifler

I can get very miserable, especially when it’s dark in the morning, dark in the afternoon, and grey and rainy in between. The house is a mess, there’s been yet another invasion of the teenage pizza snatchers in the kitchen, the washing piles up and Christmas is looming – and once again no cards have been written and only the briefest of brief investigations of various online shops has taken place, ahead of panic-ordering on the day of the last delivery deadline.

It must be December!

And actually most of my life, whatever time of year, is pretty manic, with not much let-up in the merry-go-round of kids, work, elderly parents, neighbourhood issues, the house falling apart, and the next family get-together needing to be organised. Just maybe with a bit more daylight thrown in.

But what has December got that the rest of the year hasn’t? Yep: carols.

Most people will blanch at the idea of the same songs being played on loop in the supermarket and having to sit through another nativity play, having practised Away In A Manger with their 7-year-old for weeks leading up to it. And I see lots of Facebook posts from long-suffering choir leaders pleading with their peers to come up with ideas for new carols or interesting arrangements of old ones.

To all those I say – bah humbug!

I was brought up a Christian, even if I don’t attend church now, but what I clearly remember enjoying about going as a child was the music and the singing. And, no, it wasn’t a new hymn that would enthuse, but the harmonies and comfort of well-known ones.
When the children were small, I used to sing nursery rhymes and other songs with them, and it was the repetition, the knowing of the song, the return of the familiar that would be a hit. I was a wizard at extending ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ with new verses ad infinitum (depending on the length of the car journey) and at no point would the kids’ enthusiasm for that tune flag.

Since playing in a brass band, there have been lots of opportunities to blast out my favourite carols, in harmony with others, and I’ve loved them all.

So: go with it, in December, and enjoy. That’s certainly what I’m doing. Since playing in a brass band, there have been lots of opportunities to blast out my favourite carols, in harmony with others, and I’ve loved them all. Annual band Christmas concert? Tick. Annual joint concert with local choir? Tick. Annual community carol singing on bandstand? Tick. Singing carols with Making Music under tree in Trafalgar Square? Tick. Playing most of the Salvation Army Christmas carol book with the Big Christmas Wind Orchestra and Choir in Spitalfields? Tick.

I’ve found myself sitting in those events and no longer worrying about the notes (yes, agree, maybe I should….), but just enjoying the sound and being there in one space with so many other people, making harmonies. I have sat on the bus on the way home, and just grinned.

Hopefully, our playing and singing will have had the same effect on the audience…