Holiday songs underscore all of my holiday experiences. You only get a chance to pull them out for a very short window of time but the memories they create last forever. My love of music was instilled in me by my father – he loved music and loved to dance and handed down those passions to me. I also found out at quite an early age that I had a pretty decent singing voice and had an ear for musical harmonies. The nuns at my grammar school loved that and hence the holiday memory I am about to share.
I have a few very strong memories of grammar school but one that always rises to the top was gathering around the piano during music class (how many schools have music classes anymore) and singing Christmas songs. My sixth grade teacher had a penchant for The Little Drummer Boy and was elated to find out that I had a range that could support doing the bass rum pum pums in the song. I also had an ear to be able to sing that on pitch so that assignment was always relegated to me. I never wound up singing the lyrics to that song but I was the best background singer my sixth grade teacher had ever know. And what is that song without that background refrain? My sixth grade teacher would boast to other teachers that she had a student that could sing the bass part of Little Drummer Boy on pitch and they were always surprised to learn that it was actually a girl who was doing it.
But I also had a range that allowed me to sing soprano and that gave me a starring role in the song “Angels We Have Heard on High?” I could belt out the Glo ooooo ooooo oooo oria like no one’s business and finally got the chance to sing a lead vocal in a song in the holiday concert. To this day that song holds a very special place in my heart. I can still see this little sixth grader, strong and proud, singing with gusto and faith – truly an magical and angelic time. I can still see my class gathered around the piano, divided by our vocal ranges, smiling and singing, having the time of our lives. A special time of year with special songs to sing.
I’m not sure why to this day this one particular grammar school memory stands out for me. But I can still clearly see the room we were in, the piano in the back of the room, the winter sun streaming the windows, the uniforms we wore, the big blackboards with examples of palmer method cursive writing above them – I can even remember the smell of Maurice Lenell cookies wafting through the hallways – the hallways always smelled like that in our school. And I distinctly remember the pure joy I felt every time I sang a rum pum pum or a Gloria. It felt like Christmas time would last forever and that I was the luckiest kid in the world. Pure happiness, a precious memory.
I don’t sing these song much anymore. I don’t know why. Maybe I should…