My secret life – well, my second secret life, if you count this blogging one – involves singing in a large symphonic choir.
Hmmm. Do you suppose there’s something about this whole Secret Life concept I’m just not getting?
One fine friend tells me that I’m the most indiscreet person he knows. Not so! I tell him. It’s all just fluff and frosting! I never discuss the private layer cake beneath — all those times, for instance, when all the time consumed by choir leaves a bad taste in Husband’s mouth.
Other women take lovers, I tell Husband. It could be worse.
It’s like you have 110 of them who sing, Husband tells me.
When he’s right, he’s right.
I’m in a small Dickens caroling group that’s very busy this time of year, running hither and yon to spread holiday cheer. Yesterday’s adventure even cheered up Husband:
Things start out normally enough – if it’s at all normal to be strolling into a Rocky Mountain Welcome Center early on a November Saturday trussed up in full Victorian regalia surrounded by crowds in cowboy hats and expensive yuppie outerwear and elf boots, with a 10-foot inflatable Santa out in front beside a flamboyant ice sculptor and a carnival cotton candy booth and a “free pony rides” wagon.
A perky volunteer meets us at the door and returns often to play conductor, delighting all the people wedged in the foyer waiting to get at whatever delights lie within the building. Perky Volunteer is dressed in bright neon pink, with a bright neon pink scarf– so you know it is deliberate. Pink? For a Christmas party? Really? She is wearing reindeer antlers with bells, though, which she shakes coyly at key moments during Dashing Thru The Snow. So you know she got the memo about it being Christmas and all.
Forty-five minutes into our quartet’s two-hour gig, it feels like we’ve been singing carols for endless eons. It takes a lot of fa-la-la-ing to fill up two hours. Fortunately, the crowd keeps moving through and doesn’t notice repetition. We start getting bored, though, and venture from the security of our set performance list into the pieces stuck in the back of our folders – the esoteric carols in weird keys with strange harmonies that usually languish unloved. We find that if you smile and are wearing bonnets and top hats, nobody really notices the singing. We use it as public rehearsal time. Our director likes it when we rehearse.
All is calm, all is bright round yon virgin Christmas carolers (work with me, here). We are right at the “sleep in heavenly peace” part when the first storm trooper marches past. I sort of choke. A second one in full battle dress follows. I glance out of the corner of my eye at the soprano beside me, wondering if anyone else has noticed anything sort of surreal going on.
Her shoulders are shaking. I snort. It’s hard to sing when you’re snorting. The tenor and bass try their damnedest to maintain dignity and continue singing, eyeing us sternly, but then a third Star Wars warrior strolls through – dressed all in black, with breathing hoses and various other high-tech apparatus. I’m not (quite) geeky enough to know that Empire squadron’s name.
We four are all but rolling about helplessly on the floor. Really, there’s a lot of decorum involved with the whole bonnet and top hat thing. You put those on and people expect a certain level of class and deportment. The moment you’re out in public, you’re “on.” You’re not supposed to laugh to the point of possible peeing.
Too much information; sorry. Perhaps I really am the most indiscreet person I know.
Things calm down. We wipe our eyes and resume our singing duties as the crowd edges past. It isn’t until later, during the Coventry Carol, that the storm troopers pass by again — right during that mournful Herod-baby-smiting bit full of seasonal slaughter. The soprano and I catch each other’s eye and guffaw.
Guffawing is not a typical response to lyrics like, “his men of might, in his own sight, all children young to slay.”
A gentleman who’d been standing near us looks after the troopers and says, “But I feel so much safer now!”
He doesn’t help matters.
The third time the storm troopers make their circuit, we all look straight ahead and think of our dead grandmothers and other very sad things to keep us from collapse. We soldier on pretending that Star Wars is happening in a galaxy far, far away, and refuse to look at each other even peripherally. Whew! We handle it! It came upon a midnight clear, and the singers kept singing.
That’s when the 8-foot Chick-fil-A Cow shows up.
Really, there are limits to what you can expect from volunteer carolers, even seasoned ones. The Chick-fil-A Cow is wearing a large sandwich board that interferes with our petticoats. He flails around awkwardly as 8-foot fake cows are wont to do, and causes a ruckus. When storm troopers show up to investigate, we decide we’re done. God bless us, every one.