Monday, December 9, 2013

The Parents' 2013 Christmas Event

On the twelve days of Christmas your offspring gave to thee:

First we start with dinner,

Leonard Cohen's anthem,

Ineffectual stingers,

Bearing our sorrows,

Multitude of praisers,

Reassuring angel,

Little lights a-twinkling,

Wild honey pot!

Pretty shoes and dove,

That black sheep,

Crunchy bugle snacks, 

And their pictures on a gold tree

For the past six or seven years Elliot and Oliver have tried to do something to make their parents' Christmas sparkle. This year they decided on the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra's annual performance of Handel's Messiah.

But an Event has to have build-up, of course, and a lot of discussion including eating (also of course! The two boys and their Auntie K love to eat together!) ensued:

 Boston Pizza ...

Starbucks ...

Kinjo ...

We had to keep eating until we settled on the clues building up to December 6, and how it was all going to work. There was going to be one cryptic clue added to a tree each of the 11 days before the Messiah. Each clue would reference some song from the masterpiece.The last one - the one that invited The Parents to dinner - would be placed at the base of the tree on the morning of the 6th.

They were to tell their mother to take a picture of the tree each day and send it to Auntie K, who followed up on Facebook with the Twelve Days song you see above, as part of the clue.

They were not to give any other clues to The Parents until the last day.

Here are the solutions to the clues:

Day 12: Julia Child's confirmation trivet that we were on the right track, along with an invitation to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse

Day 11: The Hallelujah Chorus, of course!

Day 10: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Day 9: He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.

Day 8: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest!

Day 7: (There were shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo! The angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore afraid.)

And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord.

Day 6: The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Day 5: The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Day 4: How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace!

Day 3: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way ...

Day 2: The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible!

Day 1: For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given!

After a mouth-watering experience at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse we ran through the Plus 15 walkways, very necessary to Calgary winters and gratefully received by our party this night, to the Jack Singer Concert Hall. We slipped into our seats - Row E Centre - just as Michael Hope, the CPO's second bassoonist and so much more, prepared to deliver his opening remarks and acknowledgments.

Here is the official review from the Calgary Herald:

From our vantage point, five rows away from the stage, the soloists did full justice to Handel. Perhaps Daniel Taylor was more fragile than I have heard him in the past, but we wondered if he was battling a sore throat or the like as he seemed to sip more water than usual. As for baritone Peter Harvey, his delivery was consistently high and his "Trumpet Shall Sound" was fresh and triumphant. Tenor Colin Balzer launched the evening with "Comfort Ye" and we knew we were in for a treat. But the astonishing gift of the evening was soprano Sherezade Panthaki, whose voice soared to high D on one memorable run and who sang each of her solos with understanding, grace and deep sympathy. Her exquisite delivery made me want to weep, made me glad I was sitting next to Bronwyn, made me want to share the moment with my friends Jane and Mary.

Conductor Ivars Taurins has to be mentioned - what he drew out from the orchestra and chorus was nothing short of mesmerizing. It was a fresh, crisp, quick Messiah to be sure; but at the same time his profound knowledge of the work enabled him to let the soloists set their own pace, confident that he would rally the instruments and voices back into time. 

The Hallelujah Chorus left Bronwyn and me with tears rolling down our faces; and the Amen Chorus at the end sealed the evening, growing from a muted Amen to soar and swell in wave after wave until the rafters of the Jack Singer auditorium resounded with praise and confidence that "worthy [indeed] is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing."

In my humble, untrained opinion, Handel's Messiah is like no other score ever written: its musicality and virtuosity is unquestioned, but it is more than that - it opens up the scriptures and sets the story of Jesus to music in a way never accomplished before or since. And this year's magnificent performance was one for the books.

The evening drew abruptly to a close as winter highway driving stared us in the face. Quick hugs and goodbyes and we went our separate ways, thanking God for Handel, thanking God for each other, thanking God for two young men who arrange a Christmas Event for their much-loved parents each December.


(Tafelmusik's recording of the Amen chorus; Ivars Taurins conducting)


  1. These two young men have grown up with a confidence that can only be cultivated through time, culture, attention and care, and you are a shining star on the treetop in this! Thank you, Karyn. The night was magical, unforgettable, and so well prepared for (a lesson learned from John the Baptist, no doubt!) We entered the evening with anticipation and ended it with wonder at the Messiah Himself. Oh, and I'm so glad we had those amazing seats where Daniel Taylor's mesmerizing delivery could be well heard, and Sherazade Panthaki's beautifully expressive face could be seen, while her voice soared. The cold and bustle added to it, making The Messiah a still and radiant centrepiece to the winter. Thank you, thank you a million times for this experience! Love always.

  2. Karyn, I love your beautiful artistic page! I do hope Les and I can join you soon! Hugs!


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