Wrapped in Gold


Christmas, Christmas time is near

Time for toys and time for cheer

We've been good, but we can't last

Hurry Christmas, hurry fast

Want a plane that loops the loop

Me, I want a Hula-Hoop

We can hardly stand the wait

Please Christmas don't be late.

It was 1958 when the Chipmunks recorded The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late). More than 4 million copies were sold in seven weeks. The novelty song won three Grammy Awards and was nominated for the record of the year. The popularity of the Chipmunks led to comic books, three TV shows: The Alvin Show, Alvin and the Chipmunks and ALVINNN!!! And the Chipmunks. In addition, there have been 8 Alvin and the Chipmunk films grossing more than $1,381,630,866.

As we all know, Christmas is more than planes that loop the loop and Hula-Hoops. It is a time where we can rush almost to the point of exhaustion culminating in a day of festivities with family. But it is also a spirit. “Until one feels the spirit of Christmas, there is no Christmas. All else is outward display—so much tinsel and decorations. For it isn't the holly, it isn't the now. It isn't the tree, not the firelight's glow. It's the children when the Christmas spirit returns again.” (Author Unknown)

One of my favorite activities at the conclusion of a fast-paced semester is to take some time and read. Not just the paper, magazines, or about music, but about those things that inspire and motivate us open our minds to common and new ideas and to reflect how these thought can make us better people—thus making the world in which we live (academia and real life) more peaceful.

I recently came across a story “The Gold Wrapping Paper” about a young girl who gave her very gruff father a very special gift on Christmas. It is the story of a man who worked very hard just to provide for his family. A few days before Christmas he discovered that his five-year old daughter had used the only expensive roll of gold wrapping paper to wrap the one present she placed under the tree. He also wondered where she got the money to put the object in the gold wrapped shoebox. 

On Christmas morning the young child gave the haphazardly wrapped gold shoebox to her father and said, “This is for you, Daddy!” When he opened the box the father discovered that it was empty and said to her “Don't you know, young lady that when you give someone a present, there's supposed to be something inside the package.” 

As tears rolled down her little cheeks she looked up at him and said “Daddy, it's not empty. I blew kisses into it until it was full.” Of course, the father was dismayed and asked for her forgiveness.

A short time later, the child died in an accident. The father kept the gold box by his bed for the rest of his life. It was said that when he became discouraged, faced difficult problems, or was just lonely, he would “open the box, take out an imaginary kiss, and remember the love of this beautiful child who had put it there.” Augusta Rundel wrote “Christmas—that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a time of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance—a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.”

Sometimes in the busyness of life or the seemingly endless treadmill of academic calendar and tasks, it becomes easy to not make the “main thing, the main thing—being good to one another, being kind, contemplating eternal things, finding truth, making the world softer and more beautiful, being a friend, finding peace in ourselves so we can find it in others. The list is endless, but I have to believe it all centers in discovering the good in our fellow man and loving them in spite of their oddities. When that occurs, right always wins, and love never ends.

This is the responsibility of each teacher in the Townsend School of Music and each year it becomes a different challenge because the faculty grows a year older and the students stay the same age. Thus, each faculty member is forced to stretch ideas and pedagogy in order to reach these young and talented fertile minds. It is a matter of persistence and consistency in unlocking the inner soul of music. And, I am happy to report that the Townsend faculty are meeting that challenge. Students are growing, are motivated, and seeking to help transform the world through music while hopefully finding the magic and mystery in music that inspires.  How can one not LOVE that!

In the movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas these haunting words of “Where Are You Christmas” are sung:

Where are you Christmas

Why can't I find you

Why have you gone away

Where is the laughter

You used to bring me

Why can't I hear the music play?

If there is love in your heart and you mind

You will feel like Christmas all the time

I feel you Christmas

I know I've found you

You never fade away

The joy of Christmas

Stays here inside us

Fills each and every heart with love.

Where are you Christmas

Fill your heart with love.

Where are you Christmas? We have moved through the year at a presto pace, our actions and reactions done at time-warp speed. We must find some time to slow the pace, hear the inhalation and exhalation of our life's cadence, experience the sun, feel the rhythm of the cold breeze, and nurture a time to allow ourselves to listen. To listen to music that can provide, joy, comfort, wonder, mystery, reflection, celebration, gladness, and love. I have my Christmas Day song list to which I will be listening. Perhaps it can be yours too as we together uncover and rediscover the love of Christmas. 

Where are you Christmas? Maybe it's in a gold wrapped shoebox filled with kisses and maybe in the inspired music that touches our soul. It's right here for the taking.

From the faculty, staff, and student of the Townsend School of Music we send our best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and may the spirit and sounds of glorious music that brings peace, hope, joy, and love resonate in and through you.

C. David Keith, Dean

Townsend School of Music

Christmas Playlist

arr. Mack Wilberg, “O Come, All Ye Faithful”

Morten Lauridsen, ”O Magnum Mysterium”

Pentatonix, “That's Christmas to Me”

J. S. Bach, “Gloria” (from B-minor Mass—begin at 19:03-25:15 for “Gloria” only) May be the greatest piece of music ever created!

The Piano Guys, Peter Hollens, David Archuleta, and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir get together to sing “Angels We Have Heard On High”

Edward Elgar, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” (Music: Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36, Enigma”: Variation 9: Nimrod

Benjamin Britten, “This Little Babe” (from A Ceremony of Carols)

Alan Silvestri, “God Bless Us Everyone” (from Disney's A Christmas Carol)

arr. Mack Wilberg, The First Nowell

“Where Are You Christmas” (from How the Grinch Stole Christmas)

J. S Bach, “Pastorale” (from Christmas Oratorio)

Pentatonix, “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen”

Alexander Kopylof, “Heavenly Light”

Georges Bizet, “L'Arlesienne Suite No. 2: Farandole”

Craig Hella Johnson, “Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming/The Rose

Dan Goeller, “Sleepers Wake”

Frank Ticheli, “There Will Be Rest” (not actually Christmas, but rich in beauty)

John Williams, “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas (from Home Alone)

Sergei Rachmaninoff, “Ave Maria”

Healey Hutchison, “A Carol Symphony” (24 minutes)

J. S. Bach, “Magnificat”