‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents’ grumbles Jo March at the
beginning of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.
Well, I could manage without the presents but there is one thing I cannot do without
at Christmas. Singing. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without singing.
It all starts at Advent with the modal beauty of O Come, O Come Emmanuel and the
rousing strains of Hills of the North. Through weeks of humming along to Slade,
Wizard and Wham in the supermarket to the glory of O Come All Ye Faithful at
midnight mass. Lots of my memories of Christmas are tied up with singing.
When I was three and my sister was six my dad made a classicly 1980s family video
of us singing as he accompanied us strumming on the autoharp. My sister did a
wonderful rendition of Silent Night, her singing complemented by her improvised
ballet moves. The high note was a bit of a stretch and her eyes began to water under
her hilariously heavy fringe as she stood on her tip toes hoping that would help.
Soon it was my turn, what followed was a slightly illiterate version of Away In A
Manger and a very high energy performance of Jingle Bells complete with Elvis style
That same Christmas the Middlesbrough Citadel Salvation Army came to play
outside the house for great gran. We all stood in the cold and sang along. Soon
joined by the neighbours until most of the street was united in singing Hark The
Herald Angels Sing.
As I got older there was one year at primary school when I was let off my annual
duty of giving a memorable performance as a sheep to take the coveted role of angel
because it was the singing part. Even as a sulky teenager I was made to sing at
Christmas. Dragged around the houses of elderly neighbours and family friends we
would do our impression of the Von Trap family to sing what I’m sure were less than
tuneful four part harmony a cappella versions of everyone’s Christmas favourites.
And now I’ve graduated from Jingle Bells to singing in the choir at Durham Cathedral
at midnight mass and having myself a Christmas full of song.