On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: The Great Christmas Escape

Tonight’s Christmas celebration was a free concert at the Frist Museum of Art. We’ve attended concerts at the Frist before, and have had a good time, and this one looked to be a great way to celebrate Christmas.

We parked in a free spot at Cummins station, and made the short hustled hike over, but realized once we got there that we were a few minutes late. We listened for music coming from the lobby, where we had attended concerts before, and there was none. We looked around and finally succumb to the humiliation of asking. The attendant said that the concert was in the cafe. So we rushed back down to the cafe, where there were six people and no musician.

We asked the waitress if we were in the right spot for the concert, and she said she thought so but it looked like the musician wasn’t going to show up.

WHAT?! But this is the 11th day of Christmas and I have no back up plan!

(I should have seen it as a Providential opportunity.)

As we were speculating about traffic, illness, or just plain forgetfulness, a man carrying a speaker walked in. “We had set up in the lobby,” he muttered. Sure enough, the musician was at the Frist, but in the wrong area. She was heading toward us. A family of three seized the opportunity and  bailed.

So, we faced a dilemma: Do we stay for a concert with all three other people, or do we cut our losses and head out? We decided to stay. I sipped on a hot chocolate while Ken dug into a piece of chocolate cake, while they set up. 

Finally, 30 minutes late, the concert started. The artist introduced herself to all five of us and prepared to sing. She set up the song, and waited for the audio track to begin.

Nothing.

After several minutes of uncomfortable silence, during which I identified all available exits, and ranked them in the least embarrassing to leave through, she gave up on the sound system and began singing a capella.

Her lovely lyric soprano voice broke the uncomfortable silence. Well, the silence except for the three people in the back who continued to talk full-volume during her song.

The music did attract a few more passersby, mostly museum staff, and the attendance topped out at a whopping 10 people. Still not enough for us to be able to leave with any sort of anonymity. In fact, she was sitting between 2 of the 3 exits. She made great eye contact with the audience, but since there were so few of us, we met her full gaze approximately every 8.23 seconds. She might as well have been sitting at our table belting out Christmas tunes.

After the first song, her sound man was able to get her audio tracks to work, and the concert got underway. A fine selection of “Frosty the Snowman,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” and “Deck the Halls,” as well as a few other songs, before she turned to more serious music of “Silent Night,” “Away in  Manger,” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” While her voice was lovely, the more she sang, the more she depended on her sheet music for words. Then for rhythm.  By “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” I was convinced either she was having a stroke or was completely unprepared for the concert. She invited us to sing along, I suspect to drown out the fact that she had no idea what she was doing, but by this point, we were back down to six very confused people in the audience. No one was about to utter a musical peep.

At the end of “Bethlehem,” she declared she was going to take a five-minute break, and then listed at least ten other songs that she planned to sing after the break. We were surprised that many Christmas songs even existed! Maybe she was going to start doubling up? Since she hadn’t gotten the lyrics right the first time, would she even remember what she had sung?

Then we saw our chance –a light at the end of the tunnel that was either our freedom or an oncoming train. Fortunately, another audience member created a diversion by approaching her with a question, and we were able to duck out into the December night nearly unnoticed.

So, it wasn’t the best Christmas concert ever. Okay, it may have been one of the worst. Into every 12 days of Christmas a little “bah humbug” must fall. On the other hand, we may be giggling about this one for years. Maybe it was a burst of Christmas joy after all.

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