I picked up a little book at my mother’s today, entitled Once More With Feeling. It was in fact a book about the great classic hymns and carols. Flicking through its pages, I was consumed by intense nostalgia for those days of lusty singing in school assemblies and, at the end of the year, trying to keep warm caroling on icy doorsteps.
I don’t need to hear more than a snatch of the first few bars of any of them to experience that intense memory of years gone by. Is there anything quite as evocative as the strains of Dear Lord and Father of Mankind or Jerusalem?
I can picture the dirty worn floorboards of the school hall, the children in their home-knitted woollies, sensible lace-ups and knee-high socks, and the lingering scent of blackboard chalk and disinfectant.
There doesn’t seem much opportunity to hear the old hymns these days. The newer ones just don’t work for me in quite the same way as the worthy pomposity yet often beautifully melodious works in the hymnal of the 19th century. Luckily, with carols, it’s an entirely different matter.
I can’t hear, sing or play carols enough at this time of year. I love them all. My absolute favourites have varied through the years, but I don’t really mind which ones pop up.
After browsing through the fascinating background stories in the book, I took an amble down Frodsham High Street with the familiar tunes on a repeat shuffle through my brain. The Christmas decorations were up and twinkling in the fading evening light.
December isn’t so bad sometimes.