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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

December 21, 2009

Christmas past …

evelyn @ 4:00 pm

Christmas is usually quite a tense time for organists.  Not for us the relaxed anticipation of carol services and Midnight Masses.  We have to organise all that jolly music, and at this very moment of writing a heavy snowfall is giving rise to the question:  do we or don’t we have that choir practice, and if we don’t, do we have all the phone numbers to put people off?

Things have changed since I first played at Midnight Mass some 35 years ago.  The licensing laws, for one thing.  I can’t remember what closing time was in the seventies, but the emptying of the Star and Garter down the road always seemed to coincide with the start of our Christmas Eve carol service.  An influx of merry wassailers at this point was a known hazard, and parish bouncers were on hand to make sure the merriment was contained. In particular, for a variety of reasons, health and safety not being the least, they had to be kept away from the organ gallery.  This didn’t always succeed; on one Christmas Eve I remember looking round to find my choir being conducted from the top of the gallery stairs by a complete stranger.

Children can also provide the odd surreal experience.  On one occasion a children’s choir responded to my two-line introduction to ‘Once in royal David’s city’ by singing ‘Away in a manger’ in the same key and in perfect time.   Sometimes in the dim and distant past I would be asked by the local primary school to play the piano for the various classes’ Nativity plays.  The younger the children, the less inhibited they were about acting before an audience. ‘You shall have a son and call him Jesus!’ bawls the Angel Gabriel to Mary, whose face is about three inches away, and who is trying not to fall over.

Pre-school Nativity plays can be even more hilarious.  When our three-year-old came home from playgroup to tell us that he had been chosen to be ‘Jofuss’, we blinked, then realised that he meant ‘Joseph’ and that this was a great honour.  The play was essentially simple, with no spoken lines, and Joseph’s part was perhaps the easiest of all.  After leading Mary into the stable, he had nothing to do but wait while the tableau built up of Mary, baby, shepherds, wise men and angels, during which all the children sang carols and Christmas songs.  Mary played her part beautifully, gazing thoughtfully down at the crib, while all the others carefully moved into their correct places.

Not Jofuss, however.  Bored with waiting, he had decided to relax.  Reclining in the hay at the back of the stable, he was obviously completely at ease and enjoying the show, waving his arms and snapping his fingers as the company sang ‘one, two, three little angels’.  The other parents were most amused.

Happy Christmas, everyone!  Enjoy playing the merry organ, and may your choir sing sweetly.

1 Comment

  1. In my head, I had always spelled it “Jophis”.

    I still feel it was an accurate portrayal of this lesser-known nativity character. 🙂

    Comment by Our three-year-old (now 29) — December 22, 2009 @ 8:13 pm

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