Saturday, December 19, 2020

2020 Christmas Recital

I'm trying really hard to not be sad that we filmed our entire recital on "grid" instead of a beautiful full-picture view of our recital we captured everything. It's fun, I suppose, that we'll get to watch our audience's reaction (since we couldn't see them from where we were performing)'s simply not the finished product I'd hoped for.

Luckily we filmed our "dress rehearsal" this afternoon, so we have that. 

I'm still not pleased that I'm still half in pyjamas (dress rehearsal, Nancy, come on!) and there were a few other mishaps that we ironed out before the recital (as well as a few that we did not manage to iron out (and even then we managed to add some new mishaps to the recital because we are nothing if ingenious)),'s better than the video we got from the recital so I'm glad we have it.

If we try this again in the future (and we probably will—even after the pandemic is over (it's going to be over at some point, right?!)—because we live far away from our loved ones and they tend to miss out on this sort of thing) we'll do a lot of things differently. Like, for example, we realized that we probably should have simply streamed our concert on YouTube and then met up with people in a Zoom call after...or something. But, live and learn, right?

We had a sizable crowd show up, with friends and family tuning in from Idaho, Hawaii, Ontario, British Columbia, Utah, Illinois, Alberta, Georgia, California. Even our next-door neighbours "came"!

Without further ado, here's our 2020 Christmas Recital...

Zoë introduces herself saying this: 

"I’m Zoë and I started piano lessons in May. Today I am going to play Good King Wenceslas, Jolly Old St. Nicholas, Jingle Bells, We Three Kings of Orient Are, Up on the Housetop, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and The First Noël. I wanted to play even more songs but my mom said I couldn’t. My favourite piece is The First Noël because Noël means Christmas and the E has two dots above it just like in my name! I also like it because it sounds beautiful."

The older kids had to do some research on one of their chosen songs/composers. Here's what Benjamin had to say:

"I’m Benjamin and I am going to play Deck the Halls, Silent Night, and O Come All Ye Faithful. My favourite piece is Deck the Halls because it’s a traditional Welsh Christmas tune. The lyrics were written by Thomas Oliphant, a Scotsman, with the  fa-la-la-la line mimicking the madrigals of the 16th and 17th century. "

"I burned the fingers on my left hand by picking up a pan that I didn’t know was still hot, so I am being very brave by playing today."

No matter how many times he practiced this song (and he practiced it a lot), he simply was unable to play it before I sang the first four notes for him. So I think I do that in this clip (I can't remember). He simply cannot get the first measure right without me singing it first (and for whatever reason it must be me). He also skipped an entire line of Silent Night (something he repeated in the recital). But he's really been working hard this year and we're happy with the progress that he's made. Also he really did burn his poor little fingers!

Andrew was making some sour dough bread in a big dutch oven (a Le Creuset, so a French Dutch oven). He had just taken the lid off the pot midway through baking something magical to the bread (it helps with the crust, I think) and set the 500°F lid on the stove top to cool before popping the bread back in the oven. Then he walked away

Mere minutes later, Benjamin decided he wanted to make an egg for himself, so he bustled about the kitchen—pulling out a little frying pan, finding the butter—and soon realized that the lid was covering part of the burner he wanted to use. So, with the frying pan right hand, and knowing the lid to the Dutch oven is rather heavy, he reached out with his left hand and firmly grabbed the lid by its handle. Poor, poor boy. He was screaming and crying and writhing around on the floor when I found him. 

"What happened?!" I asked. 

He pointed to the stove and squeaked a few syllables that made no sense at all. 

"You've burned yourself?" I asked.

He nodded, still screaming and writhing, cradling his left hand.

"Quick! Hop up to the sink! We need to get it under cold water!"

I helped him get his hand under running water and then investigated the stove. I could feel the heat radiating off the lid before I even touched it. That thing was still hot, hot, hot! Leaving Benjamin at the sink I went to ask Andrew how long ago he'd taken the lid off the bread. 

"I literally just did," Andrew said. 

"Benjamin picked it up," I said. 

"He did?! That thing must be 500 degrees!"

He ran out of his office and skidded down the hall to help tend to Benjamin, who came away with the experience with second-degree burns gracing all his little fingertips. This was...Thursday?

Benjamin is feeling much better now though his fingers are still a little tender.

Next up we played a few songs with Alexander. He loves music, loves singing, loves dancing, but he also doesn't know when to stop, so we did our best to involve him with a few songs and then, eventually, took him to another room to play so that he wouldn't spoil our recording. In all honesty, he would have played and sang for you (or anyone) for a full hour all on his own—banging on the piano, strumming the ukulele, clanging the bells, singing his little heart out. Just...not a lot of it would have made we've spared you that experience. But I'm sure he'll be begging for piano lessons soon enough.

Benjamin read this introduction: "We are going to play two ukulele pieces with Alexander—Christmas is Coming and Christmas Bells. Alexander is very excited that Christmas is coming, though he says, “Mih-muh ih tummin!” Miriam will be accompanying us on the orchestra bells."

We've had our bells/chimes/xylophone/metallophone out for weeks now and, remarkably, no one has gone insane yet. For years it has been basically under lock and key because a certain little boy (in too small of a house) would drive everyone crazy any time he got ahold of the mallets. He didn't care for rules like, "Soft side only!" But now that little boy is older and has a better sense of decorum and Zoë and Alexander don't seem to get as wild with it as he did at their age (and/or our house is bigger so we just don't care?). Anyway, it's been out for weeks now and the kids have all been enjoying figuring out their piano pieces on it (or just playing whatever popped into their head). Miriam defaulted to the bells during our ukulele sessions, so she played them for our concert as well (parts she mostly made up on her own, I might add).

Rachel quit piano lessons as soon as she could. I had been doing my best to teach her while we lived in North Carolina and kept up in Utah for a while, but the minute she joined the school orchestra she cut piano lessons off. Practicing two instruments was impossible, she claimed. She's since repented and recently asked Miriam to give her lessons, so they've been doing that every week for the entire school year. Why Miriam? Because Miriam plays better than I do, that's why.

I think Rachel and Miriam have such an interesting relationship. I don't know of many sister pairs this age that have a dynamic like theirs—the fact that Rachel is perfectly happy having her little sister teach her is incredible. They share a room, study together, do projects together, clean together... It's true that they don't get along all the time, but they get along exceptionally well most of the time and it's a beautiful thing to see. I'm lucky to have them (but I think, more than that, that they're lucky to have each other and I hope their relationship continues like this). 

Anyway, here's Rachel's introduction:

"Hi, my name's Rachel and though I started taking piano lessons several years ago I...quit. So I’ve just started taking lessons from Miriam! Today I’ll be playing Silver Bells, Joy to the World, and Shepherd’s Carol. I like the history of the song Silver Bells. When it was written in 1950, Jay Livingston and Ray Evans originally called it Tinkle Bells, but they changed the title of the song after Jay told his wife the name and she said “You wrote a song called 'Tinkle Bell'? Don't you know that word has a bathroom connotation?” He went back to Ray and told him that they needed to change the name of the song, and luckily they did it as soon as they could. If Jay’s wife hadn’t told him this, I don’t think this song would have been nearly as popular as it is now."

At this point we switched on the organ so it could warm up while we did a few more songs on the ukulele. Miriam read this introduction for us: "We will be playing Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head, an Appalachian Christmas melody, Little Star, by Denise Gagne, and Los Peces en el Rio, a popular Christmas song in many Spanish-speaking countries. It talks about Mary performing ordinary tasks for the Baby Jesus, like washing out his diapers."

The kids worked hard to learn the words (or at least the chorus) to Los Peces en el Rio. I need to be more diligent about Spanish lessons for the kids, but I figured this song was a good start. It's hard to know how to connect to Aunt Ruth sometimes—the kids adore her, but they've only met her one time, and she lives 3000 miles away. She is from Argentina, though, so we were hoping that this song would be a happy surprise for her—and I think it was!

I really wish that we had gotten a good video of Zoë singing during the recital because for more than one song she was closing her eyes and belting out the lyrics. She likes to close her eyes while she does things to prove that she's doing them from memory (she will often insist on showing people how she can play her piano songs with her eyes closed as well). Her singing was very cute and very funny (I almost started laughing when I saw her squeezing her eyes shut), but this eyes-open recording will have to do.

Miriam was up next and she introduced herself saying something like this (but not exactly like this because she decided she should explain a few more things before the recital):

"My name is Miriam. I have been taking music lessons for several years now. I’d like to thank my teachers: Heawon Jun, Nora Hess, Linda Giles, my mom, and many others. The pieces that I will be playing are one, Edelweiss from The Sound of Music with a key change that I was assigned to figure out on my own, a hymn medley that I put together myself along with all of the transitions, and Grand Jeu et Duo by French organist Louis-Claude Daquin."

"Louis-Claude Daquin was born on July 4, 1694. He originated from the town of Aquino in Italy when his Great-Grandfather converted to Catholicism from Judaism, taking on the name D’aquino, or Of Aquino, or the more French version of it, Daquin. When he was young his family noticed his great interest in music, so as a child he took harpsichord lessons from Elisabeth-Claude Jaquet de la Guerre, who was another pivotal musician in French society, and his godmother. He died in 1772, from either unknown or unrecorded causes. One of the collections that he wrote included 12 Christmas Noels. I will be playing the tenth one, Noel X, or Grand Jeu et Duo."

"As Louis-Sebastien Mercier once said, "'There have been organists, but Daquin is Daquin.'"

Here she is playing Edelweiss:

And here she is playing the medley she put together:

And, finally, here she is playing Noel X:

D'aquin is now one of Miriam's musical heroes. She loves everything he's ever written. 

She wrote an essay on him a few weeks ago, even contacted a university music librarian to help her find more information about him when she wasn't able to find much online. I mean, it helps that my mom was the university music librarian she contacted. But still! 

It was quite a lot of work for the kids (and me, if we're being honest) to put together this recital, so I was happy to see so many people "come out" to support them. I think it was good for them to have to play through their nerves, something they haven't been required to do for months. Miriam used to play prelude at church every week but...lately she's just been playing for us. It was good to play for someone else for a change!

Thank you to everyone who watched! It was lovely to "see" you!

(And just so I don't forget, here's our set up from this evening (this was after I fed the little ones banana bread and sent them downstairs to play for a few minutes; Miriam's pieces are a little long for them to sit through and the microphone was a little too sensitive to their childhood wiggling)):


  1. It was so good. Thank you to your entire family!! Wish I could have stuck around to say thank you to all those who "came"!

  2. This was remarkable!!! Such a beautiful, sweet, talented family! Thank you all!

  3. Listened again tonight in order to liven up some boring research I was doing! I loved listening to each of you--it made the time fly in a delightful way!