First, let me apologize for talking about Christmas in February and subjecting you all to Christmas carols only two months after the real thing -- but such is the life of the blogger, always a day late and a dollar short...or I just haven't gotten around to it until now...
When I went home for Christmas this year I was leaving the same night as the choir’s Christmas dinner. It’s very common here for groups – the faculty from school, choir, sports teams, offices, etc. – to go to a restaurant to celebrate the holidays. Usually the restaurant will have a special set menu for these occasions, and this year we went out to the very ritzy golf course for ours. I had to catch a bus at midnight to make it to the airport for an 11am flight to New York. I wasn’t sure how I’d make it to the dinner from my apartment with my big suitcase and then make it to the bus station on time. But one member of choir, a tenor and one of about four Fernandos, offered to drive me. Not only did he drive me to the bus, but picked me up at his apartment, advised me when I should start saying my goodbyes at the dinner, carried my suitcase, drove me to the bus station in the pouring freezing rain, and waited with me until the bus left.
I should also mention that the only reason I was at the choir dinner was because I changed my ticket to stay three days later than originally planned. Our big Christmas concert was in the Cathedral downtown this year, and it was televised throughout Spain – kind of a big deal. My first ticket home was for the day of the concert – but upon much insisting from the choir director, Manolo, (who is an infectious disease specialist and had many fears about a cold or the Swine Flu running rampant through the five-member soprano section), I changed my ticket to leave two days later, AT THE CHOIR’S EXPENSE. So they paid over $300 for me to stay three extra days and sing with them. Needless to say, I felt very loved and valued! And I was so, so happy to be able to be there for our major concert.
And the concert! It was amazing! We performed in the Cathedral, which we’ve done before, but this time there was a whole formal fancy shmancy television crew, complete with seven different camera angles, bright lights, and the Cantabran Minister of Culture to introduce us. We sang a variety of Christmas music – some new pieces (one that we debuted, with the composer in the audience), some old classics (Mendholsson), a medley of carols from around Europe (in German, Italian, Spanish, and French) and some newer classics from the Anglo-Saxon tradition, which made it really feel like Christmas to me. We sang another medley of traditional English (and now American) traditional carols, including the hymn version of “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem,” which is my favorite carol ever.
It was really special to be singing songs that mean so much to me with people I’ve come to love so much, and after we’d worked so hard to sound good. And to top it all off, it was televised both in our tiny province and all over Spain! I didn’t see the footage until a few weeks ago, though, because I was home by the time it aired. We got a DVD of the concert, because one of the tenors works for the national TV/Radio organization, but since my computer is American, I can’t watch it. Luckily he uploaded a lot of videos of the concert to his youtube channel. (See below)
A lot of my friends here came to see me sing, which meant a lot to me. A number of American friends, some Spanish friends, and even the wealthy family of my five-year-old student I talk about in a previous post (mom, grandma, and two adorable kids) came all the way from Torrelavega to see it. In a few of the videos they focus on the kids, I’ll be sure to point it out with the video links. Afterwards, some American and Spanish friends and I all went out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants here, fondly nicknamed “The Sausage Place,” and ate delicious veggies, homemade sausages, calamari, and little baby squids (‘chipirones,’ my faaavorite Spanish food) all piping hot off the grill. Mmmm.
The only thing that makes me uncomfortable about the concert is that the cameras focused on me a LOT. Everyone was telling me how much I’d ‘come out’ on the footage, even the night of the concert, as it was televised live within the Cathedral so people sitting behind pillars could see. Then even when I came back from the US almost a month later, everyone from my students at school to friends of my old roommate told me how often I was featured. It’s embarrassing. I hate watching myself sing (or worse, listening to myself – at least I can’t hear my own voice very clearly on these recordings). But I suppose that’s the way it goes. At least my everyone at home who's been asking can see it now!
Coro de Cámara Acapella de Santander – December 18th, 2009 – Cathedral, Santander, Spain(listed in order of performance)
(Introduced in baby talk by my student's two-year-old brother, Juan)
* * * *
(The following carols are traditional sixteenth-century Spanish songs, sung by a reduced choir, and with instrumental accompaniment, including two “rabeles” - traditional Cantabrian violin-like-instruments)
Verbum caro factum est
(The title means “What a beautiful little boy,” and notice at the beginning they very appropriately focus on my five-year-old student, Luis, and his two-year-old brother, Juan)
(The whole choir returns)
* * * *
(Part of the "European Christmas Journey.")
(Part of the "European Christmas Journey.")
(Closeup of my face looking stupid – did they know I was the token Anglo Saxon??)
I wish I could put the whole concert up here for you to see - I know it's a hassle to click through all the links. Or am I flattering myself?! Maybe you all like the pick-and-choose aspect of it. Not everyone is a choir nerd, after all. I do wish, though, that he'd posted more of the European carols - mostly for my Mama, because we sang her favorite ("Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," or "Est ist ein ros entsprungen" as we sang it in its original German). And "Adeste Fideles" and "Silent Night" (sung in four languages - my friend counted and we sang in a whopping eight languages that night), with the whole congregation standing and singing along. Some Christmas traditions are universal.
Oh, and it would have been funny to see more of the classic Spanish Christmas carols, mostly because I didn't know the words to any of them, nor had I heard them more than about twice. As everyone else in choir could sing them in their sleep (like us with "Jingle Bells," for example), we rehearsed them once and didn't use sheet music. Mostly (I imagine) the shots are avoiding me, but if there is one, I'm sure I'm smiling foolishly at the director and utilizing the oldest choir trick in the book - say "watermelon watermelon" in more or less the right rhythm and hope it looks OK.