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The Magic of Holiday Pops

I will not complain about being busy during the Christmas season.  That would be absurd, because everyone is busy.  And because for a musician to complain about working too much would be like a retailer griping that people just keep BUYING things in December.  This season, for us, has enormous financial impact, and the fact that I haven’t had a day off since Thanksgiving is just one of those side effects.

But I will admit that after playing three quintet concerts today (and having worked every day since Thanksgiving, did I mention? Plus every day but two in November…) I was DREADING tonight’s Holiday Pops rehearsal here in South Bend.   Early in the season I was enjoying the effort, and challenging myself in every rehearsal and performance to improve even as I played through yet another schmaltzy or jazzy or cutely technical Christmas carol arrangement - but by this point I really don’t have a lot left.  I kind of hate the oboe - I hate my sound - I hate other people’s sounds - and I even don’t love my students much.  It’s been a hard month.  The music we are playing this weekend is - by design - familiar, and comfortable, and to the ambitious musician tiresome.

Even when I got to the hall, I was not feeling it.  I soaked up a reed, played a few notes, and sat numbly while all around me my colleagues greeted each other.  Chatted. Seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves and feeling the holiday spirit.  People were wearing brightly colored sweaters and acting like they weren’t on their last shred of energy.  Talking about Christmas gifts and loved ones and final school days.  I had nothing.

But you know what?  It’s always fun to play in an orchestra.  It’s always nice to play in your own town.  And as overplayed as these Christmas tunes are, they are beloved for a reason.  We launched into one of the MANY Many Moods of Christmas suites, and by the end I was actually enjoying myself.  We plowed on through a few John Rutter carols, and by the end of those I was back on board and in the game.  THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS WORKED ON ME, YOU GUYS!  I enjoyed the rest of the rehearsal. 

I have three more days - five more services - of work, and I’ve GOT this.

There is a reason that Holiday Pops concerts are popular, perhaps the most popular events we do.  There’s a reason musicians work SO much in December that they barely get out of bed from the 26th on.  There’s a reason that EVERY orchestra does this sort of concert - in which nothing remotely contemporary or forward-looking happens and everyone recognizes every tune and community choirs are involved and the stage is decorated and actual attention is paid to the visual appearance of the orchestra.  This season is magical, and even as much as I want to stretch myself and the art form and the paradigm and ALL THAT - I have to admit that I love it too.  Everyone loves these shows.  They have their own (formulaic, predictable, BELOVED) magic. 

You should come.  It will be really nice.  Concerts Saturday and Sunday - details HERE.

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