Ah, Christmas! The time of joy and love. The season of hope and peace. And, for musicians, the season of endless gigs. It is no secret that everyone hates music that was not created by some sort of computerized machine, which is why it is so hard for non-robotic musicians to make a living. But somehow, as Thanksgiving makes way for the full-on holiday explodegasm, everyone suddenly decides they like to hear real music again. We want strings! We want brass! We want carolers! We want Handel and Bach and Britten and Tchaikovsky! Let’s round up those singers who have been twiddling their chords since January and
force them to do offer them three concerts a day! Lets get those carolers in here! It’s CHRISTMAS!
What this means for we singers is that people who normally would never hire musicians suddenly call for our services and we are thrown into bizarre situations run by people for whom “event planning” normally means buying advance tickets to “The Force Awakens.” My various a cappella groups have found ourselves standing in hallways as people bustle by us, and in large, cavernous buildings with no microphones. We have been in malls and street corners, museums and parties, and it is an adventure every time.
We did one gig in a food court during which the people standing in front of us could not hear a thing we were singing, no matter how loudly we screeched “Silent Night” into their faces, but the workers on the upper levels of the atrium could hear us just fine, so they came out to either listen appreciatively, or to shout at us to shut up, depending on the sizes of their hearts.
We did one gig where we were arranged in a twisting line down a curved staircase like the Von Trapp children, making it impossible to hear one another in any meaningful way. That gig ended with the whole group on Santa’s lap. I have pictures of that somewhere; I just can’t find them right now.
Once we did a gig in a train station and Sigourney Weaver walked by and stopped to listen to us. It is very hard to concentrate on singing when a super-hot famous lady is standing twenty feet away from you. What do you do? Do you stop singing and run out of formation in the hopes of getting a selfie? Do you gush about Ghostbusters? Or do you keep singing and never meet her? Well, selfies were not invented yet at that time, and since I was conducting I felt that we should just keep singing. So she left and we didn’t get to fawn all over her. But it was still awesome.
Sometimes we end up outside, freezing our faces off. Sometimes nobody hears us sing. Sometimes the power goes out. Sometimes the people that hired us don’t remember that we were coming. But always we sing. We are happy and grateful for the opportunity, and our gracious voices carry over whatever other challenges and hurdles present themselves. Because at the end of the day, it’s Christmas. And we can finally afford presents.
Oh, hey, look. I found those pictures.