Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Music in the Air

We are preparing for our first ever trip to Decorah for the annual "Christmas at Luther".  Click that link to find out more about the history of this event, now in its 30th year.  Like I say, it's our "first ever" time to attend, driven by our grandson Bryan's membership in at least one of the performing choirs.  For the past four years we drove the 40 miles to his hometown to watch him perform in a number of musical events, and we're looking forward to this "upgrade," said with no disrespect to his high school choir.

Bryan's paternal grandfather was a Lutheran minister and a gifted singer in his own right.  At Reverend Waznik's funeral a dozen years ago, I was awestruck by the sound of 40 attending Lutheran ministers, primarily, I suspect, from small congregations in Western Wisconsin, as they sang along with the congregation on a number of hymns, reminding me of the Norwegian Lutheran heritage of rural northern Iowa.

Lowell Gangsted, a Luther alum, carried much of the Luther music with him, and our choirs sang a number of religious Christmas songs annually, including several from Handel's Messiah, though the programs distributed to the audience never included the important disclosure that was always posted in the programs at Bryan's high school: "We believe in the importance of a variety of musical exposure, which may/will include songs generally felt to be religious in nature."  Whether you regard that disclosure as important or not, times have changed and we change with them.  Or prior to them, perhaps.

I always appreciated Gangsted's commitment to the Messiah.  He had a goal to add a new song from that collection every year until the entire collection would be included in a program.  I don't recall how far we made it on that commitment during our time, but since we sang those songs every year, I can tell you that I still know the words and music for many of them, and probably could sing the "Hallelujah Chorus" in harmony without referencing the sheet music.  You may be able to do the same thing, although we would all need to admit that the job is made easier by virtue of the word "Hallelujah" being sung repeatedly.  Still, the Christmas music of our youth rings a memory bell as loudly as the music of Elvis Presley and others.  All a part of the heritage.

If you're in Decorah this weekend, we may see you there!  And be sure to say, "Hei hvordan har du?"

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