Getting in Tune for Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is an ecumenical operation in Dawson City, and St. Paul’s Anglican gets the honour of hosting the 7 pm Carol Service because it has the largest sanctuary. It is a standing room only event, and it needs all the room it can get.

The choir started rehearsing right after Remembrance Day. At any given practice (Sunday and Tuesday) has 10 to 12 people in attendance.

The trick is that it’s not always the same 10 to 12 people, and the final group that dons robes for the evening service might have as many as two dozen in it.

They’re not all Anglicans either. There are a few people from all the churches in town, and then there are a few more who seldom go to church at all, but like to sing in a choir.

There have been attempts to start non-church choirs in town, but they seem to founder on a lack of purpose and dedication to an event.

Deadlines, as our editors keep suggesting to us (and as I know from being both an editor and a teacher) have a wonderful way of concentrating the mind and focussing the will.

The three songs our choir will perform this year are the third anchor for the service, the other two being the liturgy and the virtual pageant. We open with song, mark the mid-point, and usually have close to the last word.

We practise about two hours a week, slightly more if my wife, Betty, and the choir’s pianist, Brenda Caley, can trick us into not noticing the clock. We practise on nice days and on days when it hits minus 40 degrees, and most of us get to between half and two-thirds of the practices.

While we usually sing to piano accompaniment or a cappella (which actually means “in the manner of the chapel”), this year we’re learning the parts for two of the numbers with the piano and then figuring out how to sing them to a recorded orchestral accompaniment. My son likes to call it “choir-oke”.

I’ve missed two practices: one because I had a sore throat and the other because I had a public event to attend and report on. There are three, perhaps four, to go and I will try to make it to all of them, because singing along with the CD is hard.

In the days before St. Paul’s was heated, we warmed it up with kerosene heaters and then had to race through the service in 45 minutes before it either got too cold or the remaining fumes got to us. For a few years we piped heat in from outside with a portable furnace owned by Parks Canada.

For about 14 years now we’ve been heating with a big wood stove. It takes several days for it to chase away all the cold stored up in the walls and pews, but it’s so good that the choir members now have to worry about being too warm under their robes. We used wear winter layers and hope not to freeze.

The service starts at 7 pm, but if you want a seat on December 24, you’d better get there at 6:30. It fills up fast.

Merry Christmas. See you next year.

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