Merry Christmas! May we remember who brings us the greatest gift of all.
Merry Christmas! May we remember who brings us the greatest gift of all.
What a wonderful week! I feel so very lucky to not only attend the Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert every year, but I get to be there for every performance, and even perform with the choir. We do the concert four times, and the conference center seats 21,000, so that’s roughly 84,000 people who can attend. That seems like that would accommodate everyone who wants to see the concert, right? But there are over a million requests for tickets. Every year I hear people complaining that they have NEVER gotten tickets, even though they try every year. That’s why it’s so wonderful that PBS carries the concert the following year, so everyone can have a chance to see it.
Every year the choir puts on quite a show, but this one was extra special. It’s hard to describe how touching and joyful the concert was. The story of Gail Halverson, the candy bomber was especially touching, and to have Alfie Boe there singing Bring him Home brought me to tears.
As a bell choir, we usually play in the processional, play a little part in the dance number in the middle, and we always play in Angels from the realms of glory at the end. Some years we are lucky and get to play in a fourth song. This year, we played Jingle Bells for the overture, then made a quick switch and came back to play in the last part of the processional, and then we didn’t play again for the whole program. Our director jokes that we would have plenty of time to go to crown burger (which is an inside joke, because during the concert our very first year, a couple of the guys did go to crown burger in their tuxes, and brought back 15 junior hamburgers and fries–enough that we could each have half a burger and half an order of fries!) We did not, however, make it over to crown burger. They had set up a tv with sound up in our concrete bunker area where they store chair and things, and that was our little hangout place.
Thursday night, we all watched the concert in awe and wonderment, laughing at the camera flub ups, and cheering at the wonderful moments. We commented when they showed choir and orchestra members that we are friends with, and laughed when Alfie Boe said, “Couldn’t you find a bigger place?” He was light and funny, and joked about his next medley of Led Zeppelin songs. But when he sang Bring him Home, we were silent. We had all heard him sing that before on the Les Miserables show that PBS broadcasts during pledge week, but to be in the same building as he was singing it was simply amazing. When he was done, we clapped and cheered, and some of us wiped away tears.
When the story of the the candy bomber was told, we all listened intently. Tom Brokaw’s telling of the story was calming and mesmerizing. I knew that the actual Candy Bomber, Gail Halverson, was going to be there, but I had no idea there would be little parachutes falling from the sky!
Well done!! We gasped right along with the audience, and wiped away tears. It was an amazing story, told in heartful honesty.
After that narration, we had to go and get our bells for our last number, so we didn’t really hear the rest of the concert, but we were so thrilled to have been able to see that much all together.
And that was just the FIRST night!
In light of Friday’s horrible events, we came to the conference center a bit downtrodden and sad, wondering how there could be so much evil in a person to kill innocent children. While we didn’t want to say goodbye to our precious families, we were so grateful to be doing something we loved, with people we love. At the beginning of Friday night’s concert, Lloyd Newel asked everyone to participate in a moment of silence for all those who were hurting and had lost loved ones. Everyone was silent. 21,000+ people, sharing a moment of respect and sadness. But sadness turned to joy once the amazing concert started once again.
Here I am with some dancers. I fit right in, right?
This is my favorite security guy, Toby, who I only see once a year at concert week, but he tells me stories of what drama has been going on on the square, or if someone threw up or got sick during the concert. Did you know there are defibrillators hidden around Temple Square? Cool!
Friday night, a few of us stayed overnight. We had some plans change and a last minute cancellation because our friend Liz here broke her foot right before the concerts started, and wasn’t able to be with us.
Saturday morning we were able to sleep in a bit, have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, then do our hair and makeup while watching a movie on tv. At 1:00 we headed over to the conference center for our day of recording. We had also planned to take a new group picture of our group, so after we recorded our songs with the choir, we did some posing.
After the recording session, the choir, orchestra, bells and dancers shuffle over to the church office building cafeteria for dinner. They treat us right there, and the price is nice (free!). But we usually eat too much and then are sluggish and tired before the Saturday evening performance. But we pulled it together!
He was so warm and gracious and allowed lots of picture taking, even if he really felt like just getting back to his dressing room to lie down. I’m so glad I got to see him and personally thank him for sharing his voice with us.
By the end of the night Saturday, we were exhausted. So glad we had our hotel room again so we didn’t have to drive all the way home just to turn around and come back by 7:30 Sunday morning. On our way out, who should we see, but Mitt Romney! He was coming out the back after the show. I tried to just put my bells away and keep out of his way, but other in our group got pictures or shook his hand. As I was walking down the corridor with a fellow bell ringer, we stopped and looked back to see where our friend Linda was. She was right behind us. And walking toward us down the hall, there was Mitt and his lovely wife Ann. When they got to us, he said, “Good job tonight,” and we said “thank you.” Governer Herbert and some security were right behind. Cool!
Sunday morning was another concert, and my family came to see that one. My heart was full. It had been such an amazing week full of blessings and joy. We were excited to play for the prophet again, and kind of sad that the week would be over. After the Music and the Spoken word broadcast, we had to make a really quick bell change. One of the guys had been suffering with plantar faciitis (No idea on the spelling there) for the week, so I offered to get the bell he needed from two flights down. Once our song was over, we literally RAN out of there, down the stairs, through the backstage area, found our new bells, and RAN back up. I had almost made it and was breathing heavily. Then came the last step, and I missed it. Splat. 5 bells on the ground, with me looking oh so graceful on that last step, surrounded by dancers and other bell players.
This one dancer was so sweet, “Are you ok?” Totally embarrassed and angry at myself, I brushed it off and grabbed those bells, and ran into place. Sigh. We had one more song later in the mini concert, and I limped down to change my bells. Ugh.
When Bring him Home was sung that last time, I started crying. With Cole leaving on a mission soon, it just hit too close to home, and emotions from the week came pouring out. I got myself together and made it through the last song. After the gifts were presented, the Choir did a special number for Tom Brokaw’s wife, Merideth. Her Birthday is on Christmas, and she has always said that when the choir sang the Hallelujah chorus, she thought it was sung just for her. So they sang it just for her. I was in the isle on the men’s side, between the baritones and the basses, and the Hallelujah chorus has never sounded better. The tears came again, I was so touched.
It was a wonderful week, and one I will never forget.
Our ward put on a wonderful night in Bethlehem activity. It was so well done! I was totally impressed. Please ignore the stupid look on my face. I came late and was just eating my chicken and pita bread when this picture was snapped.
There were even animals out in the stables.
These pictures are all from our neighbor Steve Goering. You can see more on his photo share site.
My applause go to all those who planned and carried this event out. It was tons of work, but such a special night.
Some stuff that’s been going on here. I don’t really have time to elaborate on everything, but I’ll show some pictures.
Now that they have a cozy warm house, the chickens have been more regular in their egg laying. But every once in a while we get an especially small or large one.
Here’s the little gift that the cat left on the doorstep for us. I guess that means she has accepted us as her family?
John felt he needed a mustache. Not sure why he had to do it with a sharpie, but it eventually came off.
We took the family to Thanksgiving Point to see the lights there. There were even reindeer!
I took the kids bowling. I was really only going to bowl ONE game, but they had a special text in offer so we got two games for the price of one. Fun times, even though we were NOT the best bowlers. Halfway through our second game, a whole group of cute guys came in and all bowled together. A league of some kind. We weren’t intimidated at all.
A portion of the Bells on Temple Square were there last Sunday in the conference center to record a little something in response to this..
I don’t exactly know where or when that will air, but we did it.
Here’s my lovely Natalie right before her choir concert. I hemmed her annoyingly slippery dress this week for her, and she did GREAT in her concert.
We had a wonderful Christmas present delivered this week…sheet rock!
The hangers came and got the whole basement hung in one day. Wow! I think they are coming this week to do some mudding and taping. Woo-Hoo!
On December 7th, it was St. Nikolaus Tag, which is when St. Nikolaus comes and brings candy and gifts to the good children. So, in our shoes were treats, and we even woke to little stockings with our initials on them.
More pictures and stories to come!
Friday was our concert with the band and orchestra. We had some early morning practices during the week, and then we got there at about 6:40 on Friday morning to set things up.
We planned to have the tables on the floor for the assemblies during the day, and up on the stage for the performance for the parents at night, but after looking at everything, we realized that would be SUCH a pain to move everything, so the principal and custodian raised our tables about 18 inches and the kids stood on the first step. I think it worked out just fine, and we didn’t ruffle any feathers insisting we move the tables up on stage. Those lovely red table covers are courtesy of my friend Janeen. It helps to have friends who are already teaching chime choirs in schools, because they can give advice, share music, and even let me borrow table covers. Of course, now I want to buy some fabric and make my own, but that can come later.
Here’s my group (minus two of them, who were running around who knows where) posing in front of the tables while the orchestra practices behind.
Here’s a couple of pictures that one of the moms took of the group while we were practicing.
She even got one of my leading them.
Even though one of my students couldn’t be there for the evening performance, we covered things pretty well. I think they did SO great! I think people were impressed that they could recognize the songs we played, and that it even sounded good. We played Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star, Jingle Bells, and Jolly Old St. Nicholas. Little did I know that the band and orchestra would be playing those Christmas songs as well. But since we went first, people weren’t tired of the songs YET. My husband said he was surprised at how well they sounded. (Amazed is more like it.)
I got this message from one of the moms today,
Paige – Thank you so much for teaching M— chimes. I was so impressed tonight at the concert. Talk about a proud Mom moment. I didn’t realize how amazing chimes were, how beautiful they sound, how fun they are to watch and how much they have all learned in such a short time. I was beaming.
Thanks for all your hard work!
Love – M’s Mom
That brought tears to my eyes! This is why I am doing this! To bring the love of music and handbells to kids and parents.
The whole concert went quite well. The band teacher talked about how important music programs are, and plugged her band and orchestra program, telling the parents all about when to sign up and what they would be doing next semester, and she didn’t mention a word about the chime program. But maybe next time I will take the mic and do my own announcing. But hopefully enough kids will have thought it was cool and will sign up in January. I would love to have enough kids to ring all the notes in BOTH the am and the pm groups.
For now, we take a break from the chimes so I can concentrate on ringing bells for the Tabernacle Choir concerts next week. That worked out nicely.
Voting is still going on in the Clorox contest, if you would please vote HERE, that would be helpful. I still don’t know how I will finance a set of chimes for next year, but I’m hopeful it will work out.
Here are some (low-quality — sorry!) videos of the 3 songs that Ryan captured on his phone:
We have sheetrock! Woo-Hoo! Can’t believe how fast they put that stuff up! It’s a Christmas miracle!
Our Chime Choir gets to do their first performance this Friday. They will be performing with the band and orchestra in the school Christmas concert during the day at school, and in the evening for the parents. I dreaded today’s early 7 am rehearsal because I knew I had to work some things out about concert order and where we would be setting up. The band teacher has been quite short with me and quickly shot down my ideas of how we could all share the stage and the best way to arrange things.
I talked to her briefly in the hall last week and she said, “We are going to have you guys go in the middle, on the floor.”
Trying to assert myself, I said, “No, I don’t think that will work. We could be in the very front of the stage with the chairs and stands all set up behind us.”
“Well, we’ll work it out next week,” she said, with a dismissive attitude.
When we got there at 7, the band was already up on the lunch room stage rehearsing. What? How did they get set up so quickly? Anyway, I took my students over to the gym stage, where we usually rehearse, and decided we would just practice there. Once we got all set up and had started our first song, a couple timid kids came in and said that the band teacher had asked that we come into the lunchroom. Right. I’m going to move these three 6 foot tables with chimes on them to the lunch room. But, in the spirit of compromise, I told the kids to just bring the chimes they actually play and their music folders, and maybe we could try it without the tables. We went to the lunch room and sat around while another group played. When the band finished and the orchestra started to set up, I went up to talk to Mrs. M, the band teacher. Understandably, she was already pretty stressed. She asked if we could please be on time and ready to start at 7 am tomorrow, as we would go first. I told her I would, even thought that means I really have to be there at about 6:45 to set up the tables and chimes. I told her that we were just rehearsing in the gym, and if she had a minute when she was done, she could come down and see our set up.
So, she followed us to the gym, we got to our tables, and played our three songs.
“Cute,” she said.
Cute? I’m going to try to not take offense and accept that as a complement. Grrrrr.
“That will work with them on the stage like that for the evening performance, but I don’t think we can have those tables up there for the school programs. We just don’t have the time to move them.”
A compromise had been reached, and I didn’t have to bully or be bullied in order to reach it.
I think she was jumping to conclusions because she didn’t really understand what we were doing, just that we were some new upstart trying to take away her students and edge into her program. Hopefully I handled myself well enough to show that we are a legitimate musical group, and we deserve the right to perform.
Now I just need to call the parents and make sure that every one of my kids makes it THERE to practice in the morning.