Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

A few weeks ago, as I was in the fabric store looking for fabric for Cheryl to make a new shirt for me out of, I saw that the Christmas fabrics were out. In July.

And you know what? I wasn't bothered or offended by it.

That's because I'm an old choirboy, and, as you know, that changes my perspective on a lot of things.

I remember every September, when we came back from vacation, and the boys in the choir at St Andrew's went back to their every Tuesday and Thursday schedule of rehearsals, right there near the back of our folders would be music for Advent, which I learned was the four-week season preparing us for Christmas. Then, as the music at the front of the folder was sung each Sunday, collected, and removed from our folders, the Advent music moved up closer and the Christmas and Epiphany music would start showing up in the back.

The point here is that we were learning music for the three liturgical seasons in the Christmas story arc (Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany) in September, and we were a church choir. We started practicing those songs in September so that we'd have them spot on by the time Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany actually came. Having a bunch of 5th through 8th grade boys try to learn the music for the Christmas Eve service a mere three to four weeks beforehand just wouldn't cut it for Mr Blake. It was all about giving yourself enough time to do a job well.

It was pretty much the same thing when I was a member of the Hendricks Chapel Choir at Syracuse University. We had two big concerts for the year; the Christmas Concert (which is probably now called the Winter Concert) and the Spring Concert. You can bet that we started looking at the Christmas music (or the "Christmas arc" music) the first Thursday night that we were all back on campus. There was no way we were learning pieces like Lo, How A Rose by Distler, No Sad Thought by Vaughn Williams, and Deck the Halls in 7/8 well enough to sing in front of a packed Chapel in just three weeks. Again, it was about giving yourself enough time to do a job well.

And if we were rehearsing these pieces in September, that means that they had to have been ordered in - July, when Boosey & Hawkes, G Schirmer, Belwin-Mills, and all the other choral music publishers had their catalogs of Christmas selections out for choral directors to look at.

I know this first-hand, because I've also been a choir director, and have been to the summer workshops that publishers put on to showcase new pieces for you to order for "the season."

Which brings us back to the fabric store.

Based on my experience in choirs and directing choirs, it made perfect sense to have the Christmas fabrics out in July, so that people who wanted to make things for Christmas would have ample time to do a good job in a leisurely manner between now and then, rather than making themselves and their families crazy rushing to do all of their Christmas crafts and sewing projects between the day after Thanksgiving and December 24. It's not about the over-commercialization of Christmas and wanting to sell as much stuff as early as possible; as with my choirs, it's about planning in advance and giving people enough time to do a job well.

And so I welcome the July appearance of the Christmas fabrics, and the dedication to a job well done that it represents.

Merry Christmas!

1 comment:

  1. It's not so much the holiday stuff that is out early for people to create things using the materials with ample time, but it's more the candies and decorating materials (Halloween candy, Christmas trees, tree decorations, garlands, etc) that bother me. Seriously? Do we really need to have Halloween candy ready for sale in early August? That's nearly 3 months of the candy sitting in someone's home before it's distributed. And that's only after it's been sitting in some warehouse for who-knows-how-long. And then it sits at my house for a number of weeks (or months) before getting eaten or thrown out.

    As for the Christmas decorations, I even don't mind seeing those in the stores (as long as they have them toward the back of WalMart or Target or wherever I happen to be, since they CAN be panic-inducing when you start to think about having to buy Christmas gifts already in September). But, the playing of Christmas music really SHOULD be held off until after Thanksgiving. There's no reason why radio stations and stores need to put their Christmas music into the airwaves so early. Let's let the other holidays have their moment in the spotlight, too. :)