"Lessons and Carols" is the name of the concert our church has given for about 40 years, recently on the Second Sunday of Advent. At one time, it was connected to the hanging of the greens, when great swags of greenery and red bows are hung all about the church and evergreen trees are brought in although not decorated yet. We have the choir from another church, a brass quintet and many other instruments, and the hymns are interspersed with readings from Scripture having to do with salvation history from creation to the birth of Jesus.
We started learning the new music months ago, and as we approached the concert date, we increased the rehearsals until the dress rehearsal with the instruments, which was yesterday.
When we first started learning some of the new hymns, I was resistant as I often am to new music, but as we improved and could hear the beauty of the music,
I began to appreciate them, and a version of "See, Amid the Winter's Snow," with rolling cymbals and a Mark tree, which sounds like celestial wind chimes, was intoxicatingly ethereal.
However, the dress rehearsal triggered all my old fears about playing in a concert with professionals, and partly as a result, I suspect, I did not play well. Every wrong note seemed magnified, and when one of the brass players (whom I have known for several years) asked me which part I was playing in "Joy to the World," I told her I was playing from the choral score, and what I felt like telling her was that I would play any note I thought I could hit, because I haven't yet transposed that piece.
When I went home, I wondered if I should just quit, went into a grand funk, and remembered all over again how easily I can slip into a depression and see everything through a glass darkly.
I practiced twice today, once before Mass, and once before the concert, and got some of my confidence back.
As I was setting up in the confined space in church for the brass instruments, a friend of mine whom I was not expecting to see appeared to say she was here for the concert, and then it turned out there were a dozen friends from my Beginning Experience community who had come.
Our choir director had told us this morning after Mass that we should look at this concert as a Christmas gift we are giving to the people who come, and I felt happy knowing that I had friends in the audience who would receive the gift. Their presence encouraged me to play well and enjoy playing, especially when in "Three Festive Carols," I could hear the close harmony between my horn and the professional's. The concert was a spiritual experience for me, and my friends told me that it had been for them, too. I felt appreciated that they had taken the time to come, and my spirits were soaring because of the loving hearts of these friends. There were a number of "Lessons" I learned from all this, but the most important was how much of a difference kindness and love can make.