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Sue's Views: Beautiful music soothes the 'Bah, humbug' heart

OK, I'll admit it, I've actually said, "Bah, humbug!" at least twice since Thanksgiving.

The weather has put me in something of an anti-winter funk. My desk has been covered in holiday scheduling changes, charitable requests and a 'to-do' stack that is growing every day. And that's just the workday part. At home, it's been a non-stop check-writing frenzy for school projects, athletics, charities, and alma maters, not to mention the "please bring a treat to share" invitations that mysteriously don't show up until the day before.

Throw in the non-stop Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday pressure to shop-shop-shop, a clerk who was actually texting while checking me out and a couple of ill-mannered children who were ignored by their parents but certainly captured the attention of everyone else in the theatre and "Bah, humbug" was the least harsh thing I had to say.

Unfortunately, I'm not nearly as articulate as Ebenezer Scrooge, whom I quote,

"Every idiot who goes about with Merry Christmas on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart."

I thought I was doing a halfway decent job of keeping the Scrooge in me in check. When my son asked about putting up the Christmas tree early this year, my daughter cut him off and said, "We'll be lucky if the tree goes up at all this year."

Ouch. It's one thing to feel miserly and misanthropic. It is entirely another thing to have those character traits confirmed by those who would know best. All I wanted was a batch of my mom's Irish mad fudge and a nap, preferably one that lasted until February. Once I did finally get to bed, I half expected to be visited by three spirits.

However, since my life is by no means a classic novel, there were no spirits. The alarm went off the next morning at its usual time and I was busy uttering those famous lines, "Get up or you'll be late for the bus!" instead of "God bless us everyone!"

By this past Wednesday, nothing had improved. Even playing elf bowling wasn't helping my mood.

But that evening, I went to the dress rehearsal for the Univesity of Minnesota, Morris Concert Choir's annual Carol Concert. I had planned to spend about a half hour at the rehearsal, taking photos and video.

It was about halfway through the rehearsal that I started feeling less Scrooge-like. Perhaps Ken Hodgson's passion for the music rubbed off on me. From all appearances, it would seem he can literally pull heavenly sounds from unsuspecting singers.

Maybe Jim Thoreen's obvious delight was contagious. Jim is the narrator for the production and was singing along with great enthusiasm throughout the rehearsal. He assures me he won't be as animated during the performances, but he was almost beaming in appreciation of the music that night.

It could have been the combination of nervousness and surprise on the singers' faces when they heard what a beautiful sound they were making. In listening to the chatter after the rehearsal, it was clear this was the first time the entire choir had performed the concert from beginning to end with no interruptions. Some of them seemed surprised by the final product, others relieved.

Regardless, as the last verse of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" filled Assumption Church, I was ready for the work that comes with making holiday memories for my family. I was ready to forgive those who are still struggling with their inner Scrooge and work to overcome my own.

While I'm not quite ready to quote Dickens, Conan O'Brian came to mind, "In a world with real problems, I've been absurdly lucky."

I strongly recommend that you attend this year's Carol Concert. Close your eyes and let the music surround you. And when it's time to sing along, sing loudly.

You can hear an excerpt from the Carol Concert here