"Christmas" started early this year. Back in about February, Shino and I received our first invitation for a Christmas concert--the church had been trying to hold a concert on Christmas Eve for a number of years, but had been too late to invite a musician. I was surprised, but accepted the invitation. In the end, I had more invitations than I was able to accept.
Shino and I were already practicing for our 2012 Christmas concerts before we even received the first invitation. However, we really got serious around the beginning of November in preparation for our first concert on November 23. In addition to practicing my instruments and rehearsing with Shino, I also wrote introductions for each piece we played and a 3-part Christmas talk, in which I told the story of Advent, the coming of Jesus, and finally my testimony. I used part or all of the talk in 3 of the concerts, interspersed with music.
I practiced and practiced... and the day before the first concert, the neighbors complained. We'll just say I'm excited to move next month.
The first concert was November 23 at Sakae Church. Our concert was part of Sakae Church's quilt exhibition. We played Bach's first viola da gamba sonata, a couple of Christmas carols, and each of us played a solo piece. There were also tasty cakes, delicious lunch, and beautiful quilts to look at.
|Using the organ presented some unique challenges, but it was fun, and sounded great!|
|A number of friends came, including our friend from the local tea shop.|
Our second concert was November 24 at Wakaba Church. I have to say, this was the concert I was most nervous about, since we will be working at Wakaba church starting in March. The morning of the concert, I remembered that this concert isn't about me, and I was able to get through it calmly, despite a number of things going wrong--including a cello string coming unraveled during a performance of one of the most difficult pieces I've ever played... (I've learned my lesson, and I'll change my strings regularly from now on...)
It was a special pleasure to talk to people after the concert, since we'll be getting to know them from now on. About 80 people came, more than expected, including many people invited by church members. Also, we were provided with lunch--and it was fantastic. We're looking forward to enjoying meals together with the members of Wakaba church. :)
|We played Schumann's Fantasiestücke and Schubert's "Arpeggione" Sonata on piano and cello.|
|I gave all 3 parts of my 3 part talk.|
|We played Bach's first sonata, this time with harpsichord.|
|I played and sang my own arrangement of "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence."|
The third concert was December 8 at Nanae Church. We weren't sure if would get there--Nanae is about 4 hours away by train, and there was a blizzard the day before we left (and we were both sick). There was also a blizzard the day of the concert, and the church members were convinced no one would come... but plenty of people showed up! I guess people in Hokkaido are not deterred by bad weather. The concert went well, and I felt like people engaged well with the Christmas talk. Perhaps the best part personally was the chance to spend time with OMF colleagues, Tim and Miho, and with Pastor and Mrs. Kimura, who attended Lighthouse church with us 3 years ago.
|Schubert, Schumann, and Christmas songs on cello and piano|
|The shamisen also made an appearance with my own arrangement of "I Wonder as I Wander"|
|With the Kimuras after the concert|
The fourth concert was at Tonden Church on December 15. This is the church where my shamisen teacher attends, and a number of her other students came to the concert. We did our first complete performance of the Arpeggione sonata, and of course, the shamisen made an appearance. There was also tea time with excellent cookies.
|Shino read Luke 2 for me for the Christmas talk... which is nice, since she reads faster and better than I do. :)|
|My shamisen teacher is in the foreground wearing green.|
The final concert was Christmas Eve at Immanuel Church. This one included Candle-light singing of Silent Night, and Christmas cake. And I didn't have to give a talk, just introduce the pieces. Also, this was our second complete performance of the Arpeggione sonata and the fourth performance of the 2nd and 3rd movements, which helped us to be confident. Some of my friends came!
|In addition to Schubert and Schumann, we did Bach with viola da gamba and harpsichord.|
Conveniently Immanuel Church is a few blocks from our house, so we had a Christmas party afterwards, with cookies, cardamom bread, and fruit cake!
And then the next day I sat around in my pajamas.