This morning I had an errand and the post office, so my husband dropped me in downtown Florence, and I walked to work from there. As I was walking, I found myself singing. What I was singing, I’m not sure why, was a Christmas carol. “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” (“Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” for many of you, probably) to be specific. Yes, in English, again I’m not sure why. Maybe I like it better in English, though I hadn’t realized that previously. I was aware that it is one of my favorite carols, perhaps even my very favorite. Anyway, the whole thing got me to living in the past, as my brain so often does.
I used to sing Christmas carols for a living. Almost any holiday season where I wasn’t performing elsewhere (and even sometimes when I was), I made my living in November and December singing Christmas carols in one quartet or another. This started my sophomore year of college, when I, along with some enterprising fellow voice majors at CMU, pulled ourselves into a quartet to try to get a gig singing carols on the main drag of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh during the shopping season. We got the job, and I must say that this still stands as my greatest quartet experience of all time. Yes, Mark Edmonds, Larry Street and Kristin Donahue, you are the standard to which I have held every other quartet I have ever sung with, and none of them have even come close in musicianship and vocal quality. I think I hate you. Okay, not really, but I must admit that except for a few fleeting moments here and there, no other a cappella music experience has been as rewarding for me, and I miss it terribly. We sang this beautiful and difficult version of “Good King Wenceslas” from the Oxford Book of Carols that I’ve never been able to get any other group to attempt. That was so cool. Sigh. That was December of 1988. That’s a really long time to be pining over a Christmas carol arrangement.
So what am I going on about here? Well, here’s the thing. It’s really much to late to be thinking about this, already November, but I want a quartet. I want to sing carols. I don’t care if I get paid for it, I just want it to be a really really great quartet—great musicians, great sight-readers, voices that match nicely—people who want to work hard on obscure arrangements as well as standard ones. People who genuinely love old carols, and have no interest in singing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. It’s nice to sing carols with people who just like to sing, but there is nothing more incredible than singing with a really good quartet, and that’s something you have to be picky to get. I have no idea how I’d find these people, or why anyone would want to sing for free with me, but my little heart cries out to me to do it somehow.
I blame the post office.