Saturday, December 5, 2009

December Stories and Songs, Part 4

if i may Because of the Friday Five and a dentist appointment, I’m quite late in posting this; and also I just realized that I switched yesterday and today, although there was no special reason for the dates on which the stories were read. So, today’s story is really an essay – or, as I just learned, actually only a portion of an essay, by A. A. Milne. It’s called “A Hint for Next Christmas,” and has been anthologized more than once, but it was not until I read it online here that I got a chance to read the whole thing. The part I recorded omits the whole section about Christmas cards as well as some of the introductory material, and concentrates on the house party Christmas gift-giving, and is quite funny in a quiet British way. It appears in its entirety in a book of essays by the author of Winnie the Pooh called If I May.

William, the young man in Milne’s essay, is attending a Christmas houseparty in a large country house, of the type familiar to readers of Anthony Trollope and Agatha Christie. One of the activities of the Christmas week guests would doubtless have been going to the local church for the carol service, so to go with this story I chose Cecil Frances Alexander’s Christmas hymn, Once in Royal David’s City, with music by Henry Gauntlett. It is the traditional opening to the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge and to many other Lessons and Carols services elsewhere; in fact, in the absence of a willing boy soprano, Sisterfilms herself sang the opening verse at our church’s service for several years running. She had the advantage of prior warning; as is now fairly well-known, the chorister at King’s who is to sing the opening verse is not told until a moment or two before he is to sing. a child is born
I initially chose a recording of the hymn by the choir of another Cambridge college, Trinity, from a CD called A Child Is Born, because the first verse on my recording of the King’s College service was almost inaudible. festival of nine lessons

However, apparently in England they do a television broadcast and in the video below, the sound system was working very well and you can also see the young chorister in close-up, looking remarkably poised. I’ll be attending our town’s ecumenical Service of Lessons and Carols on Sunday afternoon; I hope you can find one in your neighborhood. And of course, on Christmas Eve morning, you can listen to this year’s service on most local NPR stations.

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