I have intended for the last couple of days to blog about the start of Magic Flute rehearsals at Carthage, except that I keep forgetting to bring my camera to school, and I don’t want to write anything until I’ve got a nice picture to go with it.
But it’s just as well, because this allows me to think back to the Berg Christmas celebration and remember a very sweet moment. One thing which I really love about the way Matt and Randi are raising their three children is that they go out of their way to make music together whenever they can. As a family they participate every December in a concert called Burning Bright (which I really hope to see for myself someday) – they will often sing together for church – and they love singing together all year long, even just around the house… and the kids embrace this part of their life as a family wholeheartedly.
Or at they least mostly do. I do love a true story (which maybe I’ve shared before in this blog) from when Anna was very very young and Marshall and I were with them for Luther’s homecoming. We were sitting together at the local Subway right after the homecoming parade had finished, and Randi had been telling us what a lovely voice Anna had and how much she wanted Anna to sing a little song for us. (Aidan was already very much a known quantity for us as a singer.) As we sat there, Randi kept whispering into the ear of her precious little daughter, obviously trying to persuade her to sing the song for us. (Anna has always been a bit more averse to the spotlight than her two siblings, which is fine.) Randi finally had to go for broke and whispered into this innocent not-quite-four-year-old’s ear “I’ll give you a quarter.” And like magic, Anna started singing like the world’s cutest little nightingale! But in the background, there was Marshall laughing as if he was going to rupture his spleen – because he overheard Randi’s little bribe and it struck him as hilarious. . . and me, too, once I knew what the hilarity was all about.
Anyway, back to our Christmas celebration. . . Randi and her two daughters at one point in the day shared a wonderful song with me (and no bribery of any kind was involved this time around) and we all sang “Joy to the World” and the “Doxology” as our two table prayers (for brunch and dinner, respectively.) But the musical moment I truly cherish happened about halfway through our gift-opening when Randi offered (in that famous way of hers in which “no” is not a viable option) to teach us all a New Year’s round. It was something that all of the Spencer-Bergs already knew and were excited to teach us. . . and before you knew it, all thirteen of us were singing it together. I can’t remember now the words except for the third phrase, which was simply “joy, joy, joy” – and whenever that part rang out in the round, it was like bells were pealing. It was so fun, and as I glanced around the room I saw my nephew Henry joining in with that wonderful voice of his, and everyone else in the family as well . . . and I especially loved how young Kaj sang right into his Grandpa Berg’s ear to help him along on their part of the round.
As we sat in the living room, singing to each other, I recalled an occasion some years ago when we had a houseful of company to celebrate the 45th wedding anniversary of Kathy’s parents – and at one point, we gathered all of the guests around our staircase, welcomed them (actually, I think my brother-in-law Mark and I shared in that) and then I led everyone in a round that I had learned at – you guessed it- Matt and Randi’s house: a song called “Call Down a Blessing.” (So many of Bob and Jan’s friends were singers, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity.) That was such a sweet moment . . . which in turn called to mind the memorable night in the fall of 2001 when Kathy and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary with a houseful of company. The 9-11 disaster had just occurred three days before, and that made this gathering all the more meaningful – – – and especially that part of the evening when we hauled out our Clavinova keyboard (we didn’t yet own our grand piano) and did some exuberant group singing, as if it were our way of defying the dark sorrow of that week.
Those are precious memories for me . . . and I’m realizing now that they need not only happen on landmark anniversaries or during special occasions. We should sing songs all the time – as was probably common once upon a time when there was no tivo or video games or facebook or netflix or text messaging crowding such simple pleasures from our lives. We should sing much more often than we do. We NEED to sing much more often than we do.
And we should do so regardless of whether or not someone offers us a quarter to do so.
pictured above: My nephew Kaj singing with my dad in the aforementioned New Year’s round.