For as far as I can remember since the kids were small, December means carol concerts and obvs, carol singing and last night we went to youngest teen’s school performance (above).
When they were tiny it was all about the Nativity concert, where mums with girls tried to pretend they didn’t care if their child didn’t get picked to be Mary and the mums with boys prayed their offspring would make it through the concert without hitting their neighbour over the head with the shepherd’s hook or be spotted pushing the donkey off the stage. And that was when we were doing a ‘traditional’ year, things could get pretty surreal when we had a more contemporary interpretation.
As parents we had the most fun at primary school Christmas concerts because we could all start to join in with carol singing.
And here’s my problem, due to years of singing carols at a strict girls boarding school all those years ago for a ferocious and frankly fanatical music teacher, Miss King, I can not sing carols incorrectly. By this I mean pausing for breath at the punctuation marks and NOT at the end of the line or using just two notes for “an-gels’ in chorus of O Come, All Yea Faithfull ‘ instead of three (as in ‘A-an-gels’.)
It’s a NIGHTMARE. In my head I can hear Miss King shouting at my 15 year old self for daring to breath at the end of each line and so I continue to sing the carols properly and get irritated by anyone who doesn’t. I can’t help it, it’s years of Christmas concert indoctrination at school with the terrifying Miss King turning pink and slamming the top of her grand piano indignantly if we ever so much as opened our mouths at the wrong point (eventually, years later we realised she probably got severe PMT).
And we had to know every carol off by heart (including breathing punctuation) and I still remember every word, so now when at teensons carol concerts I can see other parents peering down at their words when verse two is reached, I look like a religious zealot confidently ploughing on while glaring at the mumblers. If we didn’t get our carols pitch-and-word perfect at school, Miss King would strategically plan compulsory ‘extra practise’ on Thursday evenings at 7.30, just as Top Of The Pops was starting and we teenage girls were desperate to watch David Bowie or Sweet pretend to sing (remember the miming?)
I have tried to overcome this, I make myself do yoga breathing to stop myself getting cross when people do it wrong, I’ve tried being like everyone else and singing it without worrying who breathes where but to no avail, I still find myself tensing up as we get to the second verse of Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem and everyone sings ‘Where meek souls will receive him, still’ ……EVERYONE will breath AFTER ‘still’, not correctly after the punctuation mark at ‘him’, thus making a blunder of the last line ‘The dear Christ enters in’.
I know, I know, it’s insane, I should just STOP with the pedantics, but after years of Miss King, it’s nigh on impossible.
Also, since I’ve had children, I can’t get through a carol concert without welling up. What’s that all about? Barely two lines into Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and I can feel myself going….I never used to be like this, Miss King may have made us cry, but it’s not the same thing as being overcome with the sheer wave of weepy Christmas nostalgia that hits you when you hear a carol. It even happens in shops! I think next year I might just be better staying at home. Does anyone else have issues with carols or is it just me?