A Narrower Christmas
by Gary Penkala
Overwhelming -- that's the feeling evoked by the huge amount of Christmas music that is in print.
The choir director is faced with scores and scores (sorry about the pun!) of seasonal selections,
some good, some bad. But, even after eliminating a huge pile of "sugar-coated" junk,
the director is still staring at many, many more choral music selections than could be sung in a
month of Christmases.
The director will usually select a few special favorites from the worthy collection to use for the parish Christmas celebrations. I like to use another method, though.
Think back to your days in English composition class. How many times did the instructor insist that you narrow a topic that was too broad for successful writing?
I feel the same way about Christmas music -- if we narrow the topic the choosing becomes easier.
For several years as the music director at Our Lady of Victory Church in State College,
responsible for the adult choir, I structured an international Christmas celebration at Midnight Mass.
Anthems and carols from many countries were sung as prelude, hoping by means of flags and original-language texts,
to arrive at some pageantry and authenticity.
In subsequent years the theme was narrowed further as one particular country and its music was singled out.