Holiday Concert @ The Heights Center

December 14, 2016

The holiday concert at the Heights Center is a big deal for the kids, and a personal milestone for me, because I play an instrument in public with other musicians for the very first time! I’ve never played an instrument before, and have only been practicing on the cello for a couple months.

The beginning orchestra goes first, playing a number of tunes pizzicato – which means plucking the strings. Mr. Greg conducts. They’re simple tunes, using variations of two different notes, but you can follow the melodies.

Then the chorus sings, under the direction of Miss Lois. What I like about Miss Lois is that she’s very energetic and full of zest. And a couple times, while conducting, she’s even dancing in her seat. I love it! Her enthusiasm is contagious.

We start with “O Come All Ye Faithful,” beginning and ending the song in Latin. While singing “Feliz Navidad,” I look out at the audience. Everyone is smiling and happy, and many are singing along with us and dancing in their seats. We sing “Silent Night,” complete with hand gestures. While singing about the “holy infant, so tender and mild,” and making cradling motions, looking down at an invisible Jesus, I think of the 16-day old baby girl I saw in the lobby just before the concert.

Then, after we belt out “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” our closing song, it’s time for the advanced orchestra to play. We were originally going to play “Jingle Bells,” but they decided to wait until Sunday, when some of the kids will play with the Gulf Coast Symphony, side-by-side. I’m disappointed, and also partially relieved, because it’s a complex arrangement. Well at least for me. It’s not just eight or 10 bars of music, which we’ve typically been playing, but about 40, an entire page. And it demands fingerings on three different strings for the cello, jumping back and forth.

I practice and practice. I know I’m better than where I was before, but I also know I’m not there yet. Jumping among three strings is tough. Miss Melissa is unerringly supportive. “You’ll get there,” she tells me. We perform “Dreidel,” a Hanukkah song, and play it through twice. Somehow, on the second time around, I get a little lost and have a hard time figuring out where to jump back in. I think I play a few wrong notes. In fact, I’m sure of it. Mr. Haneil is directing, nice and crisp, keeping us all in time, but I’m wishing for a karaoke machine type of thing that would light up the notes when I’m supposed to be playing them!

It feels good, though, to be playing an instrument with the others, to be making a sound that’s not discordant and is a recognizable melody. I remember decades ago, learning to sing the “Dreidel” song in my Brooklyn elementary school as a child. I never dreamed years later, I’d be playing it on the cello with a group of kids in Southwest Florida.

~ Nancy Stetson

Nancy Stetson is a writer for Florida Weekly in Fort Myers, FL. During the 2016-2017 school year, she will be attending MusicWorks! as a student participant and documenting her experiences in a series of blog posts and news articles.

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