Cantique de Noel - O Holy Night. Every year but one, since I can remember I have performed this song, in some form or another. Without this song Christmas is incomplete. I've played it in all sorts of settings, solo piano, solo accordion, on church organs, with tenors, with choirs, and back in grade school Christmas programs as a part of the Heavenly Host. It's a resonant infusion of peace and exuberant joy that can barely be contained in the human spirit - "a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices".
But, last year, Christmas came and went without Cantique de Noel. This one sad year, we had toiled away the entire week before Christmas, and only stopped working because other businesses had gone home for the holiday. We were setting up a new business, and there were not enough hours in the day. In the evening, my wife was making us some tuna casserole, (a Polish Christmas tradition) and she sent me out to read the marquee in front of the church, because they wouldn't answer their phone, so we'd know when their Christmas morning service started.
On the way, I turned off the music in my mini-van, unusual for me. Big flakes of snow were falling, making Milwaukee's south side look like a Christmas card. The various Christmas decorations lit the silent night, and the warm light coming from the house windows brought back memories of all the Christmases passed. I felt an overpowering longing for the notes of Cantique de Noel. I realized, at that moment that Christmas pass you entirely by. At Christmas the slightest bit of giving, sharing, joy, can be returned to you a thousandfold. But only if you give a little, else there will be nothing in it or you. It's up to you. You have to put the tiniest light in your window, so the Christ Child can enter in.
This year, Cantique de Noel is back in my life. Bette hurt herself in a fall, and I was substituted for her piano accompaniment in Julie's show while Bette is recovering. And, Julie and I "did it up proper"! Julie sang it in Db - perfectly suited to her vocal range, and, in my opinion, perfectly suited to the soul of a piano. I even remembered the extra chords that Mr. Richter always threw in on the organ pedals back in the grade school days, a strange augmentation having something to do with fifths that propels the melody to the heavens. Did I mention that I love this song?
So, here's my favorite rendition of Cantique de Noel - captured on December 17, 2011 by Julie's husband Bill on video:
Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.
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