FIFTY-ONE VOICES 'REMEMBER' T0 ANSWER THE CALL TO THE 2018 CHRISTMAS PROGRAM!
Dec. 20, 2018
Deep in December, the reviewer remembers. And the reviewer had better! In a week of unforeseen obstacles to peaceful contemplation, miraculous challenges from God—for our own good, of course - too many exams and a kind of mental scattering not usual with us, we find that our forty-sixth Annual Christmas Program ‘program’ has disappeared as well, perhaps filched by some guardian angel - again ‘for our own good’. What good? - we grumble, frantically sifting through syllabi and Christmas candies and empty water bottles. “Ah”, whispers the ghost of Christmas Past and Present,” ‘remembering!' You must build this year’s review of the 2018 Christmas Program upon memory!
So, as the intermittent refrain from “He’s the King of Kings” reminds us, throughout every Christmas Program, to “hear and obey!” and glancingly upon our own very first thought of obeying so mysterious a Christmas muse, we have suddenly recalled this line from one of the most rousing and inspiring songs of the program! Well, then, hail to thee, Benedictine muse! What have you for me upon the next thought?
Why now there rise up upon my mind those five or six very little boys in the front right rows of the choir, in all their earnest innocence, obeying Fr. Albert’s hands and eyes, as he evokes from our American inner-city children verses of perfectly-pronounced German words: “Ihr Kinderlein kommet; o, kommet doch al!” - all sung upon these little men’s child-borne 'reediness,’ silver filaments of sound carrying the words of such small ones - and perhaps the words of all small ones, in choirs of kinderlein, for millennia around the world. And the Crib is there in our minds and hearts in the audience - “Maria und Josef in Bethlehems stall” - all of us hushed and awed upon that silver innocence, so reverently evoked by the choir master, perhaps remembering his own boyhood Christmases. Suddenly the writer sees and hears her two. ‘tall’ little boys, thirty-four years ago, silver-voiced and innocent, focused on Fr. Albert’s hands and eyes - one in “Ihr Kinderlein Kommet,” and both singing their hearts out in all the other songs with their LD brothers, so long ago - yet so “Soon and Very Soon!" ...Deep in December, ‘remember!'
But now we wonder, how is it that such memories of this and decades of Christmas Programs arise so easily in the mind?. Wondering still, we suddenly recall a wise intonation passed down through generations of Benedict’s men - and most recently to us from Kevin Moriarty, ’63: Fr. Leo Beger, O.S.B. once said that ‘repetition' is the mother of all 'learning;' Repetition! - over and over again! - Irh Kinderlein kommet sung in the Christmas Program for more than four decades; “He’s the King of Kings” and “Prepare the Way for the Lord” because “The Spirit is A-Movin’ All over This Land” as “He Born” yet again while three kings “come to Bethlehem on Christmas in the morning!”
Contrary to all complaints and suggestions over all the years - that he put some ‘variety’ into the Program, that he ‘change it up’ or ‘bring in something new’ - Fr. Al has ‘repetitiously remembered’ to maintain that wonderful tradition of Benedictine life - in this miraculous musical offering over almost five decades - of the joy of repeated actions and prayers and rituals, of that dear sameness of rejoicing in the face of all change and death and upheaval. And so with the Annual St. Benedict’s Christmas Program! We don’t need a ‘program’ on a sheet of paper; the ‘program’ is ‘remembered’ in every December in our minds and hearts, and it rings in our ears. All we have to do is assign this year’s singers to the songs:
Mr. Francis Jean-Paul’s impassioned and powerful call to “Prepare the Way for the Lord!” - or Jesus Paulino and Tyler Antoine’s rousing “Soon and Very Soon” - Mr. Paulino enthusiastically evoking and leading the audience in the refrain - a young 8th grade girl (!) telling us that “Angels sing and shepherds bring praise to Bethlehem’s King.” And behind the soloists in every number, the biggest choir in a few decades, carried so beautifully and strongly by an unusually large number of UD2’s and Seniors - with a welcome preponderance of basses and baritones.
Thus, Fr. Al’s powerful solo parts of “O, Come, Emmanuel” were backed-up by an equally powerful choral background. Those older voices made sure that the ‘Spirit’ was really ‘Movin’ across the auditorium and, in the final crescendo of “He’s the King of Kings,” we thought that the Lord Himself was entering Conlin Auditorium. (And, even more than usual, our standing ovation could not be helped!) The readers were the best in years. The Monks’ Choir delighted with “Veni Divin Messie” in lilting French and somberly reminded us of Christ’s ‘passion’ for US in “O Sacred Head.” Dr. Fletcher and the pit band, Dr. Lansang on piano, Miss Flynn’s slide crew (with Fr. Mark’s spirit on the clicker!) and Fr. Albert’s indefatigable persistence in rounding up FIFTY-ONE wandering singers for rehearsals against every imaginable interference and obstacle - all these miraculous efforts created one of the best Christmas Programs in this writer’s ‘memory’ - spanning every December for thirty-five years!
...and, oh, what have we here? Ah, I remember: special thanks to the Seniors who sang! Kudos to Messrs. Noah King, Francis Jean-Paul, Damon Wright, Tyee Duncan, Zahnir Steen and Andre Leon, Jesus Paulino and Tyler Antoine! ‘Remember’ next ‘December’ to come back and sing again!