I am back in the bell choir for Christmas. The choir mistress called me a week ago to ask if I would play for Advent and Christmas: many of the regulars are sick or going out of town. Mary – the woman with whom I shared my music stand – had died last week, leaving the line even more threadbare. So would I play?  I said yes, somewhat out of guilt, but mostly in memory of Mary.

Poor Mary. She drove a motorcycle. We told her it would be her death, riding that thing in Phoenix traffic. And now it is so. I haven’t seen her in nearly a year, for I haven’t been active in bells.  It is hard to think her as dead.

The bell choir at my parish is quite disorganized and not very good. I thought being back in its chaos would be tedious, but to my surprise it was rather comforting. It was like visiting a dotty old aunt who drove you distraction in your youth but she is now strangely comforting: despite time and tide she remains the same sweet and dysfunctional dame she always was.  Our choir is the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of the parish.  Only the priest seems annoyed with it. I suspect not so much out of musical taste (for which I would not blame him) but the spectacle diverts attention away from him. This is an uncharitable theory I know, but I dare say there is some truth to it.

It took me a while to remember how to swing bass bells, and how to ‘mallet’ and ‘pluck’ and ‘mart’.  We are more or less playing the same pieces that are always played at Christmas; this too was a comfort.  The women (for the adult choir is all female) were glad to see me. The choir mistress still shouts out ‘Ladies! Ladies!” when we are not paying attention.

Beside honoring the memory of Mary, being back in the bell choir gives me a reserved and comfortable seat for Christmas Eve Mass. “Midnight Mass”  is earlier with every new year. Now it is at 430PM, for the elderly members can’t stay up that late.  Normally half empty, the parish church is crammed at Christmas. I get to sit up with the bells and look out over the masses. I thought this would give me performance anxiety but I caught on quickly no one is really listening to us in all the clamor and we can’t be heard anyway. All I need do is look pretty.

That is the all the news from “C4 D4”.

As a treat – here an example of some ‘proper’ bell choir music……..

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