Monday, December 4, 2017

How to Bring Musical Magic into Your Holidays!

Hello everybody! Usually, I would be answering a question in this space, but I had the most amazing experience over the weekend, and I just had to share it with you.

My very excellent neighbor had a holiday party on Saturday.  She is one of these savant hostesses, who miraculously whips up a homemade, old-fashioned, DIY, country-style gathering at the drop of a hat.  From Scandinavian Christmas recipes, to mulled wine, to paper hat crafts, it's like walking into a Country Living magazine.  So, we always have a great time, and there are plenty of small people mingling with the big people.

One of my favorite parts of her house is the room she calls the "sunny room," which not only gets nice sun, but also houses a piano, many small musical instruments, a comfy bean bag chair, and lots of books.  On Saturday, the kids went right for it, and as the grown-ups talked, we would see and hear a small marching band winding in and out of the rooms, some with jingle bells, small cymbals, an accordion, a harmonica, and big smiles.

As I sat chatting with a woman who brings her boys to my class, her youngest son, 18 months old, was tapping on the piano, singing "Ahhhh", trying to sing the note he was hearing (I think!). As mom and I talked, we sang back to him each time to reinforce and validate.  That alone was really joyful for me, but it got better.

I don't know how it came up, but one of the neighbor's asked me if I could sing Petula Clark, and you don't have to ask me twice, so I started singing "Downtown", and they all joined in on the chorus.  The next thing I know, we are all singing old TV theme songs, and no one is being shy, or complaining that they can't sing.

My neighbor's brother digs up a harmonica and starts playing.  He tells us he plays best by ear, so he needs to hear someone sing so he can play along.  That's when the Christmas carols started.  We pulled out old piano books to get first notes and a few lost verses, and some of us (ahem) tried unsuccessfully to remember how to play the piano, while a father and son teamed up to play the Charlie Brown Christmas theme.

One neighbor picked up a guitar and launched into a speedy version of "Folsom Prison Blues" that left the singers winded, but we all fell back into the swing with "Jingle Bells".  All this took place over a couple of hours, was never very organized, and the best part?  Not a person there (besides me) would consider themselves a professional musician, they were just doing something they like to do, something that brings them joy.  And that joy was contagious!

I like to think that rather than being an anomaly, that night can be an inspiration.  What if we moved our basket of instruments out of the tucked away places, and brought them right out into the main room of a party?  What if we, instead of asking little ones to keep the noise down, encouraged them to sing and play music while they join us at grown-up parties?  What if, when your guests ask, "What can I bring?" you answer, "Do you still have that guitar?"  Holidays are a great time to nurture music making at parties, because there are so many great songs we sing in the cold, dark months to warm our hearts and cheeks.  Even one round of Jingle Bells by the whole crowd is a step in the right direction.  And a song is free!

Let me know how you've brought music into your holiday (or other) parties!

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