Bing Crosby. Say no more.
I have prepared this morning a feast of eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, and cinnamon rolls, with coffee and mimosas.
And, as has been my custom for the last 15 years, I have invited choral orphans to join me at home. Many of us church musicians find ourselves away from family until later on Christmas Day, so each year we create our family of colleagues, friends, and fellow travelers.
The King’s College service is one to be shared. Today I shall share the music with three of my friends from church.
And Christmas truly arrives when the King’s service begins.
Dear friends and family around the world —
As I have every year for nearly 30 years, I write this annual reflection and share it with thanks for your presence (cyber, in-person, by phone, in my thoughts, or any combination thereof) in my life!
The accustomed themes of work, travel, song, and church continue to pervade my life and my thoughts. I am in my fifth year as Chair of the Department of Music at Webster University in Saint Louis. The work has yummy challenges that keep me going and growing. I’m blessed with a fine studio of voice students, and I see the freshmen music theatre majors several times each week for tuition in music theory. (One of life’s great mysteries is how all that has gone before informs all that is now. I have a doctorate in choral conducting, with a research emphasis in British cathedral music, yet I’m teaching music theory for musical theatre students and also teaching musical theatre voice.)
My voice studio on the side includes two Jesuits from Saint Louis University, and a law student from SLU as well! Commencement in May was a teary affair as I said goodbye to the group of students that started with me in 2008. Fortunately, I’ve replaced them with some fine kids this year.
After several years of big changes at school, the changes this year have been less dramatic — a new website, stronger clarity in processes and procedures, better planning for future needs and growth. I’m blessed with fine colleagues, a boss I adore, and the best gift of all in a department associate I trust, respect, and like very much.
Sensing a void in the song-life after leaving the men’s chorus last year, I have returned to singing as a staff singer at The Church of Saint Michael and Saint George in Clayton, arguably the finest church choir in the area. Holy Week and Advent are two especially busy times for us, of course! My parish membership also resides at CSMSG, and I’m seeking to be involved there in more than the choral music.
I was published this year by Kansas City Music Publishing; the group picked up two of my choral works. I’ve composed more this year as well, with a new setting of the Evensong Preces and Responses for Rob and the gang at church, and a setting of John Donne’s “A Hymn to God the Father” for my colleague Trent Patterson and the Concert Choir at school. I’m hoping both will have 2013 premieres. Just this month I have finalized an agreement with a choral group in New York City for a commission they will premiere on Tax Day in April, with my friend and former student Jeffery Thyer conducting.
I’m singing a bit too, with part of a faculty recital this past February, and an oratorio appearance on Good Friday at a large Methodist church in the area.
A research grant from Webster University is funding a new research interest in American operetta. I traveled to NYC in June for eight days of research at the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center, taking in six shows while I was there and also catching up with old students. That project will be finished in the first six months of 2013.
I also took some faculty development money to support a trip to London in October where I engaged in research on an oral history of Herbert Howells, also laying groundwork for a summer class I’ll be teaching there in June. (I had the incredible privilege in October of dining with Sir David Willcocks at his home in Cambridge.)
Other trips this year, mostly on school business, included Interlochen in Michigan, Grand Lake in Colorado, Lincoln in Nebraska, Wichita, San Diego, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Montreal for a quick summer vacation.
Also this summer: I caught most of the shows at the Muny and did a good deal of work on the flower beds in the yard, only to have the drought take its toll. And I canned a lot of peach jam, plus some lime pickles.
Aunt Esther turned 100 this year. We had a grand celebration in her hometown, with many cousins in attendance. She is now failing. I’ll see her right after Christmas.
My father is finishing radiation related to cancer surgery he had this autumn. He and JoAnne continue to live in Lee’s Summit, where this week they’ll host the various family Christmas gatherings as we converge from elsewhere in the US. Pop works part-time at the local funeral home; both of them are very active at First Baptist Church in Lee’s Summit.
My sisters manage somehow to keep families and activities going at full tilt. Beth’s daughter Anna turned 16 this year, so at some point I’m owing her a trip to NYC as a present. Karen’s son Blayne graduated from college this year (which hardly seems possible) and was in short order gainfully employed by the Bolivar (MO) public schools as their IT guy.
Samson the Feist is still the darling of the household. He’s 12 years old, sleeping most of the day, and making others happy when they come to visit.
The new year is shaping up to be very eventful, more of which in another year, I suppose.
Meanwhile, on this chilly early winter morning, I await with others the remembrance of the birth of our Saviour, the one true and eternal Light of this torn and desperate world.
Rejoice in heaven,
all ye that dwell therein
Rejoice on earth, ye saints below
For Christ is coming,
Is coming soon
For Christ is coming soon.
E’en so Lord Jesus quickly come
And night shall be no more
They need no light, no lamp, nor sun
For Christ will be their All!