The only thing I ask of you this season of Christmas is that you listen to this with headphones (or good speakers) in a quiet place!
I began work on this piece on 16th October 2010, sitting at my desk in my college dormitory room in Mather House. After two days of work, I got stuck on an early section of the piece, and being busy with school life, shelved away the project, where it would sit untouched for the next five years.
I finally picked it up a week ago, not having worked on music-related projects for over a year, and thought that I should finish it. Just one week later, here is the result! It is far from perfect, and I would have loved to spend more time polishing it. However, it happens to be a busy time of the year for me, and with slight disappointment I decided that I could spend no more time on it, lest it consume my entire life and being! (Music projects have a tendency to do that to me, which can be challenging as I now have a job and bills to pay) Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed working on it.
I cannot recall the original intention behind this piece, it’s been far too long! I did not specifically pick the two carols for their words; I believe that I picked them to have both major and minor themes, allowing me to experiment with a larger variety of moods. My goal with the piece was to create something classically inspired, but with the hopes of it being accessible to the general public.
If you are familiar with concertos, this piece is not strictly one (in its purest of forms); the concerto serves more as a source of inspiration than to belong to the genre. There is no real cadenza, and the structure is very loosely based upon the sonata form. I was frustrated along the way with the tonality of the carols, which always seemed to lead back to similar harmonies/progressions, as well as the relatively unchanging rhythm of the carols (makes me ponder why I chose them in the first place!). The ending is somewhat abrupt (especially the last minor section of ‘O Little Town’ near the end), but I did the best I could with the time I was given. I probably used a few too many ideas for moods along the way–when I listened for the first time to the finished product, I shook my head, slowly taking off my headphones, while wondering (and blurting out loud) “What on EARTH have I just done?!” in amazement and disgust. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of creating and ‘finishing’ it 🙂
You might also notice that it is not a real orchestra playing–I used a virtual (digitally sampled) orchestra and piano in order to avoid hiring an entire orchestra, Steinway grand piano and renting a concert hall!
A short testimony
When I look upon the last five years of my life, when I began this piece, I see a journey. My path has been filled with many wanderings and circles, and I am also unsure of where I am headed. I constantly wonder when my soul and body might find rest, for I am weary from my constant travels and feelings of not being settled, as well as a sense of not belonging.
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” ~ Psalm 62:5
Five years may seem a long time, but it is far shorter than the forty years of wanderings the Israelites endured in the wilderness! And in the grand scheme of things, it is minuscule considering God’s timeline and plan of redemption for mankind! Even now, as I process this, I am oddly comforted. As often as I feel unsettled (especially having moved countries & places 8 times in the past 6 years), I have recently been reminded of the fact that my identity is first and foremost in Christ, and that he holds my life in His hands.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:11
Even now, as Christmas comes around just like it does every year, what can I say is different about this year? Without a doubt, a lot! This time last year, I was past caring about what happened in my life; I was ‘happy’ to let life pass by day by day, just doing my job and merely existing. Fortunately, through various people God has sent into my life this past year, my life has been shaken up and I have finally been able to confront the past events of my life.
This does not mean that I have sorted out my problems! My life is still far from perfect and I am a broken person, but for once, I am glad to be a ‘work in progress’, for it is Christ who works in me, and I trust that he has something good in plan for me. And even should I continue to face tribulations (and I am far more blessed than so many people in the world to be where I am), to God be all the glory, honor, and praise! For life is far better when I see my brokenness in the light of Christ’s love, compared to when I was ‘happy’ (emphasis on quotations) but not caring about anything, devoid of emotion and purpose.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness.” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23
I have little idea what lies ahead, but for now, I am content to put my trust in God. Especially this Christmas, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee [Christ] tonight” (O Little Town of Bethlehem)
Have a blessed Christmas!
I would like to thank God, my family, the many friends (both in the past and present) who have provided help and/or encouraged me along the way to glorify God with music, my past music teachers, and Brian G. and Chris C. for listening to my drafts and providing feedback (even if I didn’t have time to implement all the changes).