History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas and its music lift spirits in face of our loss

A favorite photo: Ralph E. Williams and "Sandy" by our flowers.
My father Ralph and "Sandy" will be alive only in our memories for Christmas of 2013, for the first time. It will be a transition. God wants us to feel joy regardless of the tragedies that may have befallen us. 
My eighth grade math teacher, Ralph Krenz, passed away earlier this month. We remember these departed people as the holiday spirit envelops us. Christmas is a time for realizing our blessings and re-affirming our faith.
"All the tinsel's up around the tree." That's the first line of a Christmas song I wrote once. Christmas music weaves a backdrop for the holiday feeling of good cheer.
I was delighted to attend the University Choir concert on December 13. Melissa Hanson conducted and Therese Sutula was accompanist. It began with "Noel," but I felt the highlight was "Hope for Resolution" at the end. The "Hope" song was a gesture of tribute to the recently-deceased Nelson Mandela. The audience joined in for a portion. From the Zulu text: "Nation, do not cry. Jehovah will protect us. We will attain freedom. Jehovah will protect us."
It was very moving, the kind of feeling that couldn't promote Christmas any better. Sometimes the sources of joy around Christmas come from unexpected places, like from a song we've never heard before.
The second line of my own Christmas song is: "Look around and you'll know it's Christmastime." That's the title of the song. Usually the song title comes from the chorus. My title is repeated in the second line of each verse. A songwriter, as he prepares his "lead sheet" will type the song title (in the lyrics) in all caps. We don't use any punctuation. Punctuation means nothing to the singer. Outside of the song title we usually don't bother with capital letters either.
there's a steaming pot of oyster stew
You can tell a song written by Neil Diamond because it starts out with the song title. "Love on the Rocks. . ."
More wonderful music
I attended the holiday band concert on December 16 at Morris Area High School. It started out with Jazz I which showed that jazz can be fully consistent with Christmas. More and more there are jazz band arrangements that are penned for Christmas, like the songs from "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
Wanda Dagen directed the concert. The musicians seemed a little too spread out on the stage for the Jazz I portion. The rhythm section was way off to one side. Know-it-all me will say the band had some trouble achieving cohesion, given this arrangement. But the director was probably dealing with logistics.
These tunes were delightful: "Linus and Lucy" and "Christmas Time is Here."
The seventh and eighth grade band took the stage next. It began with "Variants on an English Carol" and closed with "A Rockin' Christmas." Which reminds me: Why does "Jingle Bell Rock" continue as such a Christmas standard? It must connect with people. It's amazingly rare for a new Christmas song to break through. I personally would like to see "Jingle Bell Rock" give way to something a little more fresh. The public decides.
The Morris Area concert band played "The Christmas Suite" written by Harold Walters. This was followed by "Jingle Bells," "Of Festive Bells and Ancient Kings," and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."
We were reminded of the Boston Pops when the MAHS wind ensemble performed "Sleigh Ride." This piece concluded with the trademark "horse whinny" at the end, performed by a trumpet player doing something we call "half-valving." Yes, I'm a trumpet player from way back.
It's logical that I might dabble in songwriting. My father Ralph who passed away in February was a prolific professional creator of music. He has a brochure that lists most of his compositions. If he has a "greatest hit" it would probably be "Born to be Free." Much of his work was sacred. Church choirs around the USA continue to perform his music. This is confirmed when I occasionally do an Internet search. It might be in Battle Creek MI or Allentown PA. The sounds as created by my father at the piano keyboard stay vibrant. What I do as a songwriter is barely a shadow.
Here's the chorus of my Christmas song: "Say Merry Christmas to all that you know, for it's the grandest time of year. And in the eyes of the little ones it shimmers crystal clear. Say Merry Christmas, it softens the heart and makes the soul stand proud and tall. So say it loud, say it all around and have the greatest Christmas of all."
Our family will not be able to have "the greatest Christmas of all." Death has taken two of our members. My father died in February and our dog "Sandy" left us in June.
We no longer celebrate Christmas with gifts. There's no point. We in fact are trying to "de-clutter."
When I was a kid we celebrated Christmas in all the traditional ways. One of the traditions my father started was to wrap up a 12-pack of soft drink, which we always recognized under the tree. Today the highlight of our Christmas is to go to church on Christmas Eve. There are two of us now, my mom and I. We also dine at the church on Christmas Day.
For most of my life our family celebrated Christmas Day with my uncle Howard and wife Vi from Glenwood. Howard and Vi are deceased. We all make adjustments as one generation slowly gives way to the next.
We remember Christmastimes of years past, envisioning all the trappings and personalities as if it were just yesterday. It lives only in our memory now. Thus is inspired the Christmas lyric: "I'll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams." That song is a deserved Christmas classic. I should be so fortunate as to write one.
In my Christmas "dream," I pull into our driveway in the Morris Sun Tribune van, nearly done with my Wednesday evening newspaper distribution duties, ready for a short break at home, as "Sandy" barks furiously at our front picture window, and Dad looks at me from his recliner chair.
Thanks to the University of Minnesota-Morris and Morris Area High music departments for their delightful holiday-themed concerts. Christmas Eve is tomorrow (Tuesday) as I post this. Merry Christmas to all.
"Jehovah will protect us."
The full lyrics to my Christmas song are in a post I wrote four years ago, a post titled "With apologies to Bernie." "Bernie" is Bernard Goldberg. Here is the permalink, and thanks for reading. - B.W.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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