A New Christmas Tradition
Picture - # 20
DISCLAIMER: - Story mine; characters mine.
Brian slumped forward and rested his forehead on his clasped hands. “Lord have mercy!” he quickly and silently prayed. From his seat in the pew halfway between the altar and the back of the sanctuary, he could tell the sound from the piano in the front just wasn’t right.
“Enough!” he cried as he stood up. The pianist stopped. “This isn’t going to work.” Mindful that he was in the Lord’s house, he chose his words carefully. “Who in the world plays a piano at church?! The piano is wrong; the piece is wrong.”
Julie, the pianist shrugged. “What do you want me to do about it?”
“Help me come up with something else by the Christmas Eve service.”
Brian trotted up the aisle to the choir’s seats and grabbed his briefcase. “Hmmmmmmmmmm…. I might know something we can do. It might be more in line with the Catholic church, but maybe it’ll work.”
“Wanna give me a hint or do I have to play 20 questions?” Julie asked, trying to be funny.
“Do you know Ave Maria?”
“Whose arrangement? Gounod/Bach? Donizetti? Caccini? Verdi?”
“No. Franz Schubert. Also known as Ellens Gesang III.”
Julie’s face brightened. “I know that! Problem is if you don’t think the piano is right for church, you’ll have to find some other orchestration. Schubert wrote it for piano and voice. I’ve heard it with harp and voice, but the harp doesn’t have enough power behind it and if you tried it with organ and voice, the organ would be a bit too powerful. Wanna try it first with piano anyway?”
Brian nodded. Her thoughts made sense to him. “Let’s move the piano just a foot or two this way, though, to balance the acoustics.” Julie got up and she and Brian shifted the piano two feet to the left. “Hang on.” Brian trotted to his former seat. “Play a few bars,” he called to her.
Julie started playing and Brian gave her a thumbs up. Then, he moved to the back of the sanctuary, the front, and each side of the aisles. They all sounded better to him.
“Well, we might as well try it with piano first.” Brian thumbed through a sacred music songbook and found what he was looking for. He gave the sheet music to Julie.
“Are you gonna sing it in its original German?”
“Mmmmmmmmmmmm…no,” Brian decided. “The Ave Maria is actually a Latin text, so let’s go with that.”
Julie played and Brian sang. When it was done, they smiled. “I think that’s it!” Brian declared happily.
* * *
The opening prayers, hymns, and the sermon were delivered. The congregation all had candles and they were lit as one person passed their flame to the person next to him/her and so on until Pastor Gregg signaled for the electric lights to be cut. The bright orange and yellow flickering candle glow was a reminder of the baby born in Bethlehem, and it was a testament to how strong the people’s faith remained. Brian led the congregation in the almost-obligatory Silent Night.
Instead of closing the service, Brian announced, “We have one more gift of song for you if you would stay for just a few moments longer.” He and Julie then launched into Ave Maria.
As the last note died away, Brian felt a peace inside like he’d never felt before. The song transcended mere man-made music and lifted him personally to a higher spiritual plane. He hadn’t noticed that he closed his eyes during the song, but when he opened them, he saw the congregation almost in a stupor as if they’d gone along with him for the spiritual ride.
As he, Julie, and the associate pastor gathered with Pastor Gregg to walk down the aisle and greet people at the door, Pastor Gregg quickly whispered to Brian, “Meet me at my office in 30 minutes.”
Brian slipped back into the sanctuary to gather the sheet music and nervously shuffled it before putting it into his briefcase. The wait seemed interminable, but he finally made his way to the pastor’s office. Instead of unlocking his office, though, Pastor Gregg just wanted a quick word. “That was amazing!” the usually calm, levelheaded pastor exclaimed. “Do you suppose you could do Ave Maria again next year?”
Brian thought back to the original piece he’d planned and grinned widely. “Sure.”
Story by: THE BARD OF NEW MEXICO
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