Looking back on the Twelve Days

What an interesting project this has been! The responses have been fantastic. Shockingly, many people have told me that they’ve participated on every song. That takes a special kind of dedication, so at the risk of overstaying my welcome I am emboldened to share some impressions. (Links to all twelve pages appear at the end of this post.)

I was fortunate to have great music teachers. I followed my sister Judy in taking organ lessons from the late Jack Framke, shown with me on the left during a 2010 visit to Arizona. I followed my brother Tom in joining the St. Patrick HS Chorus, directed by Brother Konrad Diebold, FSC. That’s BK on the right at his retirement party in 2013. (Between us is my classmate Rich Ruh: we doubled to two proms.) The influences of Jack and Brother Konrad continue today.

You don’t do a project like this without learning something. Living with the consequences of your decisions is always instructive, so much of that learning started with decisions.

The first decision was to make this not a concert but a singalong.1 That meant that the songs would have to be both familiar and singable.2 I’m delighted that so many people have told me that they actually did sing along.3

The second decision was the Twelve Days of Christmas organizing scheme.4 Turns out there are two ways to count the days: one that starts on the day after Christmas and includes Epiphany, and one that starts on Christmas and goes to Epiphany Eve. I used the second one.5 A lot of the listeners have indicated that they enjoyed the opportunity to sing Christmas songs after they weren’t being played anywhere else.

The third decision was to include both sacred and secular songs. People seem to have been all right with that. I was shocked to discover how many secular Christmas songs are actually getting-ready-for-Christmas songs, and didn’t fit within the Twelve Days format.6

But the main learning from this project was that I have so many friends who were willing to share this Christmas in this special way. This has been a difficult year, and we’ve learned, I think, that we need to feel that we’re together. Singing these songs in different places on individual schedules may have helped with that. I hope that you enjoyed this little experiment, and like the Muppets and that wonderful song about the figgy pudding, I wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Following are the pages for the twelve days. You can use this list to sing along with the whole list of songs. (If that doesn’t get it out of your system, nothing will.)

Notes:

  1. I’m neither a concert pianist nor a vocal soloist.
  2. To come up with the twelve songs, I started with a list several times that. I practiced some for weeks only to discard them at the last minute.
  3. Probably because that way they could drown me out.
  4. Actually, I had to look up the concept since it’s really more British than American.
  5. Fun fact: originally I envisioned an “Advent Calendar” scheme, but that would have involved 26 days this year, and I just wasn’t up for that.
  6. Examples: The Christmas Song. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. White Christmas. Silver Bells. We Need a Little Christmas. Merry Christmas, Darling. I’ll Be Home for Christmas.

Sing Along on the Twelfth Day of Christmas

And finally . . .

We have arrived at the Twelfth Day: January 5, the traditional Epiphany Eve.1 “The First Nowell” seems to be the perfect choice to close our this activity.

Illustration from Bramley and Stainer, Christmas Carols New and Old, London, 1871. Obviously they focused their illustration on the first two verses.

We associate this carol with Christmas, but if you go through the whole thing you’ll see that it takes us to Epiphany, hence my scheduling it today. 2 That becomes especially clear if we sing (as we will) All! Six! Verses!

“Nowell” (of the many spellings) means Christmas, so the “first Nowell the angels did say” was their first announcement. Other hymns talk about about “singing Nowell”; same idea.

And now, let’s close out the Twelve Days by singing Nowell ourselves:

The first Nowell the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.

     Refrain:
     Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
     Born is the King of Israel.

They looked up and saw a star
Shining in the east beyond them far:
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night.

     (Refrain)

And by the light of that same star,
Three Wise Men came from country far;
To seek for a King was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went.

     (Refrain)

This star drew nigh to the north-west;
O'er Bethlehem it took its rest;
And there it did both stop and stay
Right over the place where Jesus lay.

     (Refrain)

Then entered in those Wise Men three,
Full reverently upon their knee,3
And offered there in His presence
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense.

     (Refrain)

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heav'nly Lord
That hath made heav'n and earth of nought,
And with His blood mankind hath bought.

     (Refrain)

Look for a final blog post providing links to the pages of all twelve days. But today I’ll close by simply wishing Nowell blessings to you and yours!

Click here for the recording.

Not sure what this is about? Click here!

Join us at https://lavezzi.us/ on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas to join in this virtual sing-along. Care to be a serial singer? Here you go:

Notes:

  1. The Roman Catholic Mass for Epiphany was celebrated this past Sunday.
  2. Any connection between this hymn choice and the name of our much-loved daughter Noël is purely intentional.
  3. Not to be impertinent, but evidently they share a knee. Odd.

Sing Along on the Eleventh Day of Christmas

Elevensies!

A few days ago we sang a song about the pleasures of winter courtship. Today we have another: “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

A dandy spring snowstorm from 2007. If you look carefully you can see Noël’s buddy Zeus charging up the deck stairs. Zeus loved a snowstorm!

As with “Winter Wonderland,” there’s no real reason to associate this song with Christmas, but radio stations don’t run wintertime song marathons in January or February. Interestingly, the song was written in July 1945 during a heat wave in Hollywood, California. And radio stations in the southern hemisphere program it during their winter months of June, July, and August.

When Lynn and I were dating, I would frequently walk the mile from her home back to campus, even in bad weather, so some of the sentiments here spark recollections. (You can let your imagination run wild.)1 But mostly, it’s fun to sing.

And now the lyrics:

Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

It doesn't show signs of stopping,
And I've brought some corn for popping.
The lights are turned way down low; 
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

When we finally kiss good-night,
How I'll hate going out in the storm;
But if you really hold me tight
All the way home I'll be warm.

The fire is slowly dying
And, my dear, we're still good-bye-ing
But as long as you love me so,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Click here for the recording.

Not sure what this is about? Click here!

Join us at https://lavezzi.us/ on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas to join in this virtual sing-along. Care to be a serial singer? Here you go:

Notes:

  1. I would place this song in the “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” genre. That song itself has developed a shady reputation in the Me Too era: it’s a duet in which the male may be seen as whiny, needy, creepy, or all three. One hopes that “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” doesn’t come across that way: for one thing, it’s a single, not a duet, and can be sung by either a male or female singer.