Sometimes, a day at Westminster is a bit like the wardrobe in the “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” You pop in for what feels like 30 years (accomplishing the appropriate amount of work), and step out to find that only moments have passed. Other times, it’s a bit more Rip van Winkle-esque (or so I felt when Microsoft Word recently corrected my attempt to write the date as 12/14/11 on a paper. I’m in serious denial about the impeding end of my undergraduate career.) The end of the semester is a pendular play between these two extremes: so much happens in such a swift amount of time, yet the annual traditions give you a pleasant (if at times confounding) sense of déjà vu.
The first of such traditions is (in my humble and certainly unbiased opinion) the most important. The pinnacle of Westminster Choir excellence, our chance to truly convey who we are with our actions and our very existences: Pajama Day. I’ve been a wimp for the past two years, pulling a quick change before rehearsal rather than committing to the full sleepwear experience. But this year, I committed for the entirety of the school day—Frida Kahlo socks, mildly macabre shirt, psychedelic menagerie pajama pants and all. I was matched if not outdone by my peers, with their festive holiday onesies, batman pajamas (including a cape), and appropriately patriotic Canadian sleepwear. Naturally, the highlight of the day was watching Dr. Miller conduct in footie pajamas, despite the flickers of cognitive dissonance.
After Thanksgiving break, we go into marathon mode to prepare for our annual holiday concert at the Racquet and Tennis Club in New York. This concert is possibly the closest thing we will ever experience to being characters in Mad Men. People wearing uniforms open doors for us. There are so many forks at the dinner table that I can’t remember what food I consumed with the first fork by the time I finish the meal. The paper towels in the bathroom aren’t even made out of paper; they’re made of some sort of impossibly absorbent space-age fabric and are emblazoned with symmetrical squash racquets. And that’s just what happens before we sing. This year’s program gave us a full-French immersion experience as we tackled a set of three (strophic) French carols, a brief encounter with Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin, and a rollicking closer in the form of John Rutter’s setting of Good Ale (if you are an Anglophile but are unfamiliar with the text, it’s certainly worth a Google). The highlight of the evening was for me was actually a non-musical one. Westminster alumna and the Hillman Hall’s namesake, Elsie Hillman, came to the concert and delivered a speech that still gives me a pleasant chuckle in retrospect. Her contributions and the contributions of her family to the school have been unparalleled. It was a delight to be able to share the program with her and so many others who make it possible for our school to exist.
But that’s not where the Christmas music stops. Not at a choir college. This year, for the first time in my four years at Westminster, we had a full-school Readings and Carols concert. These annual performances bring together all of the curricular choirs in a grandeur-filled event at Princeton University Chapel. I can’t imagine a better way to end the semester than by singing in this stunning acoustic with hundreds of other choristers, especially as I was conveniently hidden behind the lectern so no one could see my enthused dancing (the organ part on We Three Kings inspired my greatest work in this area.) There’s sadness in realizing that this would be my last time singing this concert, which is so integral to the year at Westminster. But given the performances by the sophomore and freshman choirs, I have no doubts that the future is in competent hands/ larynxes/ insert other body parts necessary for singing here.
As I finish up the remainder of the work I’ve so artfully evaded this semester, I wanted to take a moment to wish all of the readers of the blog and followers of the choir a tremendous holiday season. May your yule log burn brightly in the appropriate fire-safe location and may you be surrounded by tasteful arrangements of your favorite seasonal musical selections. I can’t wait to return next year to bring you tales from our January tour!