carols

due largely to our upbringing, we siblings react rather passionately (in various degree) to accidental religious events we found ourselves in, ranging from holding head “sh*t, why the hell am i here??” (me) to “get up, get out, NOW!!” (oldest sister). so, with noël coming to this rather religious oriented country, our phone lines will surely remain active with reports of accidents…

Two weeks ago, i was invited to a christmas carol “concert” on dec 11 at Harvard Memorial Church, the one with the brand new shiny and amazing organ.  Why not, i grew up singing lots of christmas songs in church, all in vietnamese.  it’s always nice to hear the same tune sung in a different language. besides, i’ve been to that church three times to hear the superb harvard choir in combination with the amazing organ (and organist Christian Lane).

The starting time of 5pm puzzled me a bit, since most concerts either start at 1pm, 3pm, or 7.30pm on sunday.  whatever. on a side but related note, the church is located INSIDE Harvard campus.  In solving the 99% vs 1% and potential occupy-Harvard problems, the rich and shiny campus has set up guards at their entrances;  only the privileged fews can now cross the “border” after showing appropriate identification.  Yep, I resented very loudly at the entrance point, though i was allowed in only because a Harvard faculty was escorting me… we made our way to the church to find a priest greeting us!! eeks. more red flag raised, though i was still innocently thought it’s a church after all, sure, why not priests…

And THEN, candles, loads of priests, altar boys + girls, crosses everywhere, and it hit me: FIVE PM, SUNDAY, CRAP! i’ve been tricked into going to mass!!  Anyhow, the organ was reallly amazing. the chorus was AMAZING! they sang at various wings of the church, one can not help but love the human voice and what it can give in solo and en masse.  load of songs, some much more religious than others, all along with various readings from the book of whichever saints**, plus “our father who are upstair”… rùng mình *

The definite highlight for me was “We three kings”.  I’ve loved the tune since little.  Never quite found a version on YT that i like, they either sound overtly religious 43 or too fast or too something.  the version last night was PERFECT!  No doubt thanks to the organ.  The tempo was just right. 5 verses total. First by the all male chorus, very deep to the grand sound of organ.  Second by the soaring all female chorus.  Third by both interweaving.  Then a complete silence… broken only by male chorus mixed in with the beautiful and soaring background humming of its female counterpart, a cappella.  Finally, all sound merged with the organ for the finale.  hair raising.  really wished i could get my hand on that.  truly hair raising.  Here’s the organ part, non describable feeling sitting in a church hearing it.

As much as i love the music, sitting there for nearly 2 hours reconfirmed my strong discomfort.  I dislike the feeling of being in a “cult”-like environment where everyone seems so happy and ready to pray (loads of that) and preach of love and whatever, and yet one feels so disconnected with the outside and wonders how many of these people really walk the talk (prejudice, i know).  Anyhoo, really just my own feeling.  I’ve been thinking for a while, given how much i love hearing people sing, whether i’d love singing myself, even though the natural place to start would be to religious tunes (surely, you know how many times Handel’s Messiah is performed each year in this country, including last week performances by Handel and Haydn Society and this past weekend ones by Boston Baroque?)

In the end, i think it works for me as long as it’s a performance like any others, and not ended up a “set up” with religious intention as i felt i got tossed into this past sunday. so, here’s a version in vietnamese to finish this up, lots of childhood memory (though strangely starts with “we three doctors“, no think it’s the version i heard when little because my recollection of the lyric is quite different than this):

———–
* shudder
** everytime i heard these, it reminds me of this scene from Jane Eyre.
ps- the definition is up there because i wanted to check if somehow i misunderstood the word “carol” for something so obvious (religious), but i don’t think so.

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About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

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