They say there are many different ways to spend Christmas eve. In Japan it is a national holiday today, so many people are taking it easy, I suppose. For those “in the business,” though (of church music), today is no day of rest. Here is how we spend it at Rikkyo University.
9:00 am: arrive on campus, duel with Beckerath organ in the chapel for two hours (why WILL it make mistakes in the fast passages?)
11:00 have an “it absolutely must be today” meeting with students for the upcoming England tour
12:00 10 minute lunch break
12:10 realize seating chart for the mass choir is all wrong and tear off to Tucker Hall to rework it. Good for the digestion.
12:30-3:00 choir rehearsals in the not-so-lovely ambience of Tucker Hall (see above photo – it has the resonance of your bedroom closet, though it seats 1500)
4:00 start of the all-Rikkyo Schools Christmas Eve service. As usual, people stood in line for over an hour to get a seat, yet there were still people in the aisles. All of the young musicians were great, from grade school to university level. Youth Power!! Singers came from all the Rikkyo Schools: Rikkyo Primary School, Rikkyo Niiza Jr/Sr High, Ikebukuro Jr/Sr High, and the University Chapel choir. They numbered 120 singers, backed by a 20-piece brass ensemble and organ. Exciting! The primary school boy who sang verse one of “Once in Royal David’s City” was a star. Imagine yourself standing in a very non-resonant room surrounded by 1500 people and singing a solo without accompaniment. It be a living nightmare for me, but the boy sang with out batting an eyelid.
6:00 short rehearsal for choir party entertainment (Sound of Music excerpts, don’t you know! Do you want to hear me sing “The hills are alive” again? What’s your budget?)
7:00 choir party: tons of food, live entertainment provided by members, present exchange.
9:00 rest for the old (me), but caroling for the choir.
10:00 the old ones (me) head back over to the chapel to battle the Beckerath organ for one more hour.
11:00 rehearsal of the choir and midnight mass instrumentalists
11:45 IT’S SHOWTIME (again)
1:30 am: end of the mass, time to head home for some champagne. The choir heads off to hotels.
Now don’t you wish your had chosen church music as a career? But wait, there’s more! We get to gather again tomorrow morning at 9:00 for the Christmas Day high mass!!! The fun just doesn’t stop. Until noon, when the choir and I finally finish our Christmas duties. Good thing Christmas only comes once a year, I say.
Merry Christmas to you and yours!