Wonderful Christmastime

And to celebrate that we had double the Christmas fun this year. The first was our traditional Carols by Candlelight, hosted by the City of Armadale. The second was a Community Christmas, hosted by the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale. It was our first time at this event and we had a great time.

It was a relaxed evening, with people milling all over the oval, fuelled by food from food trucks, the kids going wild on the bouncy castle. You could bring your own picnic blanket and deck chair and make yourself at home with family and friends on the insanely green grass. Tying it all together was the free entertainment, some of it provided by us. We had the privilege to play quite an extensive set, with a range of pieces – from Let the Bells Ring to Winter Wonderland to O Holy Night to Last Christmas to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen to All I Want for Christmas is You. Safe to say, if it was festive, we played it.

Topping it all off, it was the Goldilocks of outdoor gigs – not too hot, not too cold. There was a light breeze but armed with wooden pegs we were more than prepared. And the breeze had the added bonus of keeping those pesky flies away. Of course, being on an oval there was little opportunity to go mad with the Christmas lights but even at a Christmas gig you didn’t miss them. All you had to do was look up (something that is so easy not to do) and right above your head was a brilliant sky show that seemed to stretch forever. 

And that’s it from us for 2017. We’ll be back in no time at all, ready for what 2018 has to bring. Until then enjoy your wonderful Christmastime and have a fabulous New Year.


Let it Snow!

First day of December, first day of summer and first Friday of the month. It can only mean one thing - the City of Armadale's Carols by Candlelight. And if you weren't in Memorial Park on the 1st of December, then it's with great sadness that I have to tell you that you missed a wonderful night that is always a highlight on our yearly calendar. Lucky for you, you can now read all about it! And if you were there, well now you get to relive the whole thing but from a whole new perspective. Winners all round! 

The carols themselves started when the parade came to an end, bringing a special guest all the way from the North Pole (and considering it's his busiest time of year, he was pretty jolly). That's right - Santa! And what better way to welcome him than with a rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. After a bit of a chat with all the children, it was time to say good-bye and away he went to the opening strains of White Christmas which he will undoubtedly have. That's something you're pretty much guaranteed not to have here in Australia. Or is it . . . 

To kick off the next bracket we belted out Winter Wonderland as the Roleystone Theatre Choir took the stage. They then entertained the masses (and I'm not joking when I say the masses - the whole place was swarming with people, which was fantastic. There definitely was a crowd and space was at a premium. It was kind of incredible to see) with Let it Snow and Silver Bells. It was during Let it Snow that something amazing happened - it began to snow! Impossible! you say. This is Australia. In December. It doesn't snow! Well let me tell you, it most certainly does if you have a snow machine. And it was very pretty, with little white flakes drifting through the air, lit up by the stage lights. And far better than any other offer or hint of a white Christmas that we'd had so far (All I'll say is that there was an incident involving the high hat on the kit and a bird. And white stuff. Take what you will from that). 

It was then time to welcome the Classic Sounds Vocal Group to the stage where they got things rocking with Christmas, Baby Please Come Home, which included one showstopper of a solo from one of their younger members. To be able to get up and sing in front of a crowd like that with that amount of confidence really is something (safe to say all my solo vocal performances are saved for my cat. She generally leaves the room. She's always had paw manners). They then followed this up with Wonderful Christmastime, another lovely number. 

The Roleystone Theatre Choir then came back on and together the groups sang through a few Christmas pop numbers including Santa Clause is Coming to TownSilver Bells and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. It was then time for us to hog the stage with an instrumental, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

While we were getting carried away with seizing our solo opportunity, the combined primary school choirs filed on stage. Together they worked their way through a few favourites - Little Drummer BoyI Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas (because who doesn't?), I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus (a song that confused me as a child and I always thought about her poor husband. Not to mention the age gap of a couple of hundred years. Now, I get it) and The Chipmunk Song (and yes, kazoos were involved). 

It was then time for the final bracket which we opened with Sleigh Ride as the Roleystone Theatre Choir and Classic Sounds Vocal Group joined the rest of us on stage. It was time for the community singing and everyone was here to help lead it. In what felt like no time at all we flew through Jingle BellsRudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (complete with actions), Silent Night, Away in a Manger, Deck the Halls, Joy to the World and finally, We Wish You a Merry Christmas (because it is a truth universally acknowledged, that the only way to finish carolling is with that song). 

Yet things hadn't come to an end just yet. While everyone else was packing up and heading for the exits (which are extremely easy access when you're already outdoors), we had one last Christmas favourite to play through. And given Maestro's love of 80s pop (which is not inexplicable. She was there! I, on the other hand, totally missed it. But only by this much) there was one clear choice. Last Christmas

There we go. All done and dusted for another ye - not quite. To quote all great infomercials: 'But wait! There's more!' (NB: But I'm spruiking something way more awesome than a power steam cleaner that can clean all surfaces and stains in seconds, no scrubbing. Or one ladder that can turn into twenty-four different configurations. Okay. Fine. Something equally awesome). Normally this is the point where we'd wish you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year and then dash off to spend the next month or so lazing by the pool, tropical drink in hand (oh, if only!). Instead, we've still got one more gig in 2017 (whoop! whoop!). Another Christmas one (of course), this time in conjunction with the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale. This will be in Byford on Friday 15th December. It looks like they've got a whole lot going on for the whole family so definitely another wonderful event. Full details can be found on their website. 

Until then, the weather outside might be frightful but the aircon is so delightful. And since we've no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! (And by that I mean a shower of pollen that gets everywhere. Just as pretty as snow but far less inconvenient. Unless you were hoping for a snow day)

Something There

Only five more sleeps to go! And if you think I'm overexcited now simply counting down to the first week of December, you should see me Christmas Eve (where it's now tradition to call my sister at 7.30am to screech down the phone at her 'It's Christmas Eeeeeeeeeve' in the style of Eloise. Why? Because it amuses me and annoys her. And I need some kind of vent or it's entirely possible I'll implode). 

Five more sleeps and then it's Carols time! Which means we're still rehearsing away. Which for some people is not that much fun because they are already overloaded on Christmas and it's still November (you might be able to guess that I'm not in that group). As a compromise the last half an hour is dedicated to rehearsing non-Christmas material which (surprisingly) devastates some (yes, I'm in that group. That very quiet group. Just in case mob rule suddenly applies). 

Yet it's the same in the lead up to any concert. You've been rehearsing and rehearsing and rehearsing. You get to the point where you think not this again. It's like when you're walking in the same places everyday or driving the same roads. Every day. You don't really notice much and just focus on where you're going. And then something that's always been there will suddenly catch your eye. And you'll see the beauty in everything that's around you. You'll wonder how you could have forgotten, how you got used to it. You might even stop for a minute and take it all in (unless of course you're driving in which case you'll immediately redirect your attention back to the road because you are in charge of a ton of speeding metal). 

It's the same with music. Sometimes you're so focused on getting your part right, that while you're aware of others parts around you, you're not really listening. You're not hearing the beauty when all the different parts play together. And it's a magical thing. So sometimes you need to remind yourself to stop and take it all in. 

There's your challenge. To notice something there, that was always there before. 

Last Christmas

And at the rate we’re going it won’t be long until we’re saying that about this Christmas. Now that we’re in November, the weather is heating up (and taking things a little far. I guess we’re just skipping spring again this year), Halloween decorations are gone so the Christmas decorations no longer have to share. Needless to say it doesn’t feel so ridiculous to be rehearsing Christmas carols any more. In fact, there are only three weeks until we kick off the Christmas countdown on the 1st of December with the City of Armadale’s Carols by Candlelight and Christmas Parade. Then exactly two weeks later on the 15th of December we are back with the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale’s Community Christmas. It’s definitely beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! 

What says Christmas to you? Every year there are a few traditional markers that say the big day is on its way. I’ve already hit one of the big ones this week, that being a distinct lack of money in my account. Christmas shopping – fun but expensive. Christmas decorations going up, invitations to Christmas drinks/parties/do’s/shindigs (delete as applicable), rubbish TV Christmas movies (for which I have an inexplicable love – the tackier the better), everything winding up for the year, making more of an effort to see family and friends, all of these are part of the lead up to Christmas. And they are what makes this time of year special.

Of course with all of these familiar traditions happening at the same time, there are some who say Christmas is a bit repetitious. In some ways though, that can be part of the appeal. That it has been a year (already!) since you’ve done this or done that. This acknowledgement always makes you pause and take stock. Something which we forget to do while we’re racing through the year, trying to fit everything in, trying to get everything done.

So take time to enjoy this time of year. Even if this Christmas feels exactly like last Christmas all over again.

Someone Singing Along

With less than five weeks until the beginning of the silly (and best) season, it doesn't feel so ridiculous to be practicing a collection of Christmas pieces each week. Instead it's kind of exciting and who doesn't like to feel a little bit festive once a week? And this year we get the double the festive cheer. We have our traditional Carols with the City of Armadale on the first Friday of the month but we will also be joining the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale two weeks later for more festive fun!

A great part of these events is the involvement of the whole community. Not only do the local councils and ourselves get involved, local school students participate, as do musicians and choristers. It’s always a magical evening and we trust that our second gig will be the same. As members of the band, I always say we have the best seat in the house. Not only can we see everything that is happening on stage, we can also look out and see the audience. Until the sun completely sets and then all we can see is a sea of lights, gently moving through the night.

You will definitely want to make sure you come and join us as it is always a wonderful evening and our second performance is shaping up to be the same. We love all the performances we do throughout the year but there is always something very special about the Christmas ones. The fact that so many people come together to put on a wonderful program with something for everyone, filled with old favourites and new pieces that are destined to become favourites, does have something to do with it. Adding to that, of course, is the audience themselves. Without them we would be performing to an empty park. Which would seriously hamper the sharing of Christmas spirit. The wonderful part though is when everyone joins in. When we begin to play, the choirs begin to sing and the audience joins us. Now that's Christmas magic.

It's not just someone singing along. It's everyone.

Cake by the Ocean

Or cake at break will do just as well. For the uninitiated the first Wednesday of the month is cake at break (which is a phrase that means exactly what it says). At break we have cake. Of course this leads to an extended break (because you can’t hurry cake consumption) while we all get our social on. We’re a pretty friendly bunch at the worst of times (e.g. 5am in the cold and dark while the wind dashes about, 35 degree days where there is no shade but an abundance of flies) so with a slice of cake in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, you’ve got no chance of bumping into someone unfriendly (plus you try being uncivil with a piece of delicately baked goodness smothered in butter cream. It’s impossible).

Yet despite the great distraction we didn’t spend the whole evening chomping away (tempting though it was). There was something else (or rather someone else) present which made this cake at break extra special. A special guest! Joining us for part of the evening was Tony Buti, the member for Armadale. And he didn’t come alone. While he might not have brought along a cake to share he did bring along a very lovely cheque from the Community Improvement Fund. As a non-profit community group, extra funds are always very welcome and we’ll be sure to put it to good use.

After all the excitement it was a little tricky to settle down (which by saying that does imply that we ever do – we don’t. It’s entirely possible the school teachers among us go back to school for a break) so we didn’t. It was high spirits all the way to the end of the rehearsal.

And don’t worry, all the leftovers went to a good home. But not by the ocean.