I am sated with music and Christmas tonight. I just got back from a Christmas Wind Ensemble concert. Four members of my family played and, though I’m not biased at all, I think it went very well and if I heard a squawk or two from the clarinet section I would never mention it!
It took place in the Bowdoin College Chapel which is stunning. I remember it seeming huge when I was there as a child, and ancient. The pews are set sideways along the aisle so the patrons can see the grand processionals. Along the walls are darkly stained wood panels and above those are murals painted on the walls that are 20 feet or more in height that depict scenes from the Bible. It was all Very Impressive.
And yet for all that the first thought that I had when I walked in was surprise at how small the chapel was. It couldn’t have been more than 60 feet long. Partway through the program my imagination hijacked the rest of my mind and took me for a bit of a ride. I had been gazing at the painting in front of me for a while listening to the music when I happened to glance upward. Above the murals were painted geometric shapes that interweave amongst each other and above that was the roof. This wasn’t any roof, this roof was painted the perfect sky blue that Michel Angelo used for the Sistine Chapel. Over this canvas was sprinkled shining, golden stars. I think they were Star of David’s though I can’t quite recall. The supporting beams were carved and painted to match.
When I saw, truly saw, how tall this small chapel was something clicked, or snapped, in my mind and the perspective shifted. This wasn’t a forty or fifty foot tall solid stone building, this was a dolls-house size chapel that was waiting for the small girl it was crafted for to tear open the wrappings and lift the hinged roof to stare in awe at her new toy. I could see the roof tilt upwards and the shining eyes widen in surprise. I could hear the “Oh! Oh!” the exclamations of “Look at the darling little people! And the pretty walls! Oh! Real electric lights that work!” Brendan, who was conducting, became a mechanical puppet who moved along with the rest of his band when a key was turned. This Christmas toy rivaled both Drosselmeyer’s creation and Princess Margaret’s Dollhouse.
After blinking firmly once or twice I could see that the people around me were real and that the building wasn’t a dollhouse but a substantial, solid building that’s well over a hundred years old. But over the evening my vision kept slipping between realities.
Now I’m home with more Christmas music playing and the smell of fresh baked cookies wafting through the air and now I can believe that Christmas has come. I can also almost, almost believe that somewhere a little girl just opened the best present she has ever gotten.