The Most Important Christmas Gig
You might be wondering what I mean by the title but I think you, as musicians, already know. No, it's not the Christmas market busking; no, it's not the end of year concert with the local ensemble; nor is it the gig at the local pub. All of these were made difficult, even impossible, due to the pandemic but there's one gig that always remains constant despite all that - The Christmas Day gig for the family.
Family traditions are really important, especially for mums who panic if even one thing on the itinerary is missed off. For as long as Christmas has been a big part of our cultural traditions, so too has music been interlinked amid the festivities. Families singing carols together around the piano (if they have one), in front of the fire, or perhaps involved in the door-to-door carolling. Even if you don't sing or play an instrument, there's usually some sort of music playing (usually the top Christmas pop tunes on repeat over and over again on the radio or your sister's spotify playlist). If you're a musician and, even more so, the only musician in the family, you have a certain responsibility.
Each year, your family will make a musical request of you to play some Christmas music. Sometimes it'll just be one or two carols for your close relatives while they drink baileys (creamy). Other times, it's your grandparents, aunts and uncles; family who don't see you very often but your mum always tells them about your music, what concerts you've been performing in, and how well you did in your recent grading. Those members of the family start to make requests to hear you play and, before long, you've suddenly got quite a long list of songs to perform.
Before the pandemic, it was quite likely the whole family would be in one place, squashed into the family home; about fifteen people minimum, all cosey in the tiny living room of a three bedroom house. The 'gig' would probably last twenty minutes and then another five to ten when relatives start making last minute requests. Mum is beaming, Dad's looking proud, and there are smiles all round. Well, except from the Brother who looks quite bored; he's already managed to worm his way out of picking up the Trombone and brushing off the cobwebs (probably just as well really; I don't think anyone wants to hear Away In A Manger sounding like a dying Elephant).
Things were quite different this year (for obvious reasons). The gig was still on but now it was a case of making sure everyone knew how to use zoom, even great uncle Bob who knows nothing about technology and was bought a smartphone so he could stay in touch with everyone during the lockdowns. I say 'in touch' but I'm not sure upside-down video calls where he keeps saying 'I can't hear you' and then freezes due to the bad internet connection count really.
Anyway, the impossible happened, your mum (you really because she's not great at technology either) managed to get every one of the eleven relatives that usually come round at Christmas on the same call. There were even a few of your mum's friends as well, who have always wanted to hear you play having heard mum's rave reviews.
It didn't go too badly really. The first song, Silent Night, took on a more contemporary vibe with the regular interruption from Great Uncle Bob -
Silent night 'I can't hear you',
Holy night 'still can't hear you',
All is calm, All is bright 'have you even started yet?'
Apart from that and a few disconnections from people who had to be called back into the video call, the performance went quite well. The cousins were giggling afterwards over the fact that, because their internet connection was so bad, I looked like a pixelated blob swinging about as I sang Ding Dong, Merrily On High but mum was very relieved to have been able to keep the tradition going despite the pandemic.
So, there you go, no panicking from Mum and everyone is happy; Christmas is saved! It really is the most important gig of Christmas, maybe even the whole year. Sound familiar? I'd love to hear your stories of a musical Christmas.
I hope you had a Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!