Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, December 30, 2018

By: Ryan Tibbetts, Director of Music

There is a meme that starts circulating around Facebook among friends in my field this time of year that simply reads “Hooray!  It’s December!  Oh, wait – I’m a musician.”  In some respects, it’s a fairly accurate summation of my feelings about this season, as there’s a lot to get done and not a whole lot of time in which to do it. This year, in the span of just three weeks, we’ve had our Advent Lessons and Carols service here, I’ve conducted two performances of the Bach Magnificat and other pieces with one of my community choruses, on top of our regular Sunday services, a wedding, and several funerals – and I’m writing this on December 21, so from my perspective, our three Christmas Eve services haven’t even happened yet!

There’s definitely a lot to do, and I definitely have to brace myself at the start of the month, but at the same time, I really enjoy the seasons of Advent and Christmas, and have since I started singing in choir in high school and got my first real taste of what being a musician in December meant. There’s so much wonderful music written for this time of year – choral pieces, hymns, organ works – and every year is a chance to revisit old favorites and discover new ones.  The liturgies at this time of year are also particularly beautiful – our Advent Lessons and Carols service certainly took some work to put together, but being a part of that offering of music and readings was immensely rewarding.

The season also offers reminders of the difference music can make in people’s lives. For musicians, all the concerts and services can certainly be sources of stress, but for congregations and audience members, it’s often an island of repose in the midst of an otherwise stressful month. I was always touched to read survey responses after a Christmas concert presented each year by a community chorus I worked with in Philadelphia where people would write about the importance of that performance as a holiday tradition. Being a professional musician this time of year can certainly feel like a slog, but knowing that the work can offer “tidings of comfort and joy” to others helps to make it worthwhile. So, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year – now if you’ll excuse me, it’s still December 21 and the organ isn’t going to practice itself!