It started Friday night - we saw the Hobbit that evening and it had already been a busy day. But The Becky, who is a very talented violinist, plays in the Orchestra at Temple Square - isn't that what it is called, Becky? Anyway, they are the folks who play with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for the big Christmas Concert every year, as well as doing tons of other things like the weekly Music and the Spoken Word broadcast every week and any other big musical event at the conference center. It's a very big deal. I have been lucky enough to go to the concert several times over the past few years and I have loved all of them. I think my favorites have been to see the King's Singers and Audra McDonald. But this year topped them all by a long shot, and I'll tell you why in a bit. But first, on Friday night, The Becky got in touch with me to let me know that this year's guests, Alfie Boe and Tom Brokaw, would be at Deseret Book after the concert to sign books and CDs and things. I am such a nerd. I have loved Tom Brokaw since I was a little girl, and I don't even know how that started or why a 10 year old girl would feel connected to him, but I always have. Anyway, after the Hobbit and our return home, I practically hurled the children into bed so that I could zoom down town and get in line to see them. I was so happy I did. I didn't get a chance to have a nice long conversation with Mr. Brokaw or even cry and hold on to his legs like I wanted to, but I did get a book signed and a quick little snapshot as well as a smile and a "Thank You" after I expressed my appreciation to him for coming and signing books.
The Becky was much more twitterpated by Alfie Boe and she wasn't the only one. I had to stand in line for quite a long time to wait my turn and as I did I listened in to many conversations among women who absolutely ADORE Mr. Boe. I really enjoy his singing very much and was excited to meet him but I was impressed by the hoards of women were there to see him and were almost literally shaking in their boots. Okay, after seeing him sing I get how he turns people to jello with the power of his voice. Also his very cute British accent.
Oh man I do get so star struck. But it was really fun.
So on Saturday I got to sneak away a couple of times as well, thanks to my dear husband. For starters the soccer mommies, or at least as many as could make it, got together for a little Christmas lunch. The friendships I have formed in that group are as valueable in my life as are the kids Stomper has made friends with. I love them dearly. We decided to have a little gift exchange/lunch at a yummy little place called Cafe Niche which is right by my house and which I was completely unaware of. So tasty!! And the gift exchange was fun although only a couple of us were brave enough to actually steal one another's gifts. It was a lovely time together.
But the highest highlight of my weekend was Saturday night when I got to attend the Christmas Concert from the MoTab Choir with my friend Krista. I think I need to write down my favorite details from this concert because it was the most amazing ever. This is for my own remembrance, so feel free to not continue reading.
For starters, Krista and I had the great pleasure of enjoying a well planned evening. We parked in the right place at the right time, we picked the right restaurant (Settebello - where else?) and we made the right choice to walk there, although it should be noted that one poor choice we both made was to wear the wrong boots - we looked cute but our feet were killing us by the end of the night. We had the good luck to get seated at the busy restaurant just in time to keep us from feeling anxious about missing the concert. It also helped that the pizza maker delivered the correct pizza to the wrong table (ours) within 30 seconds of us ordering it. We had taken a bite before the waiter figured out that the pizza belonged to the table next to us but we didn't feel too bad about it seeing as how the other table got their pizza in about another minute. It did help to have the fastest service EVER. After dinner and a pleasant walk (despite the boots) and non-stop conversation, we arrived at the conference center to find that The Becky's tickets were prime beyond prime. We were on the ground floor just 15 or so rows back from the very front. Wow! Holy Smokes! (These were the phrases we most commonly mouthed to each other as we made our way nearer and nearer the front.) I found out later that we were seated very near Mitt Romney, but I wasn't aware of this until later. Should have said hello to cousin Mitt!
Then the program began. Now, it's hard to go wrong when you're in an incredible room filled with people all excited to be there, holiday decorations sparkling everywhere you looked, and a choir singing to raise the roof. That in and of itself would have filled my cup for the night. But the tone was especially tender seeing as how the Newtown tragedy had occurred just the day before. Lloyd Newell, the announcer for the choir, came out and shared some tender words before the entire congregation shared a moment of silence in remembrance that had at least me if not every person there in tears. Even the opening prayer was especially sweet and heartfelt and brought a special spirit there. Then out comes Alfie Boe, this amazing tenor with the most adorable shy demeanor and the most belting powerful voice. He swept us away, especially with the very tear-jerking "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables. I tear up a lot when I listen to singers but this was full-on coursing tears. Beautiful beautiful.
After his glorious singing I wasn't expecting that I could be any more blow away by Tom Brokaw; maybe he would just be reading the Christmas story from the bible or something simple, but how wrong I was. I hope I can convey this experience well in words; likely I will not be able to but I'm going to try.
Tom Brokaw, to great applause and cheers, walked out onto the sweeping stage and began telling the story of a young air force pilot, Gail "Hal" Halvorsen, who in WWII was stationed in Germany just after Stalin built the wall around Berlin. He was near a barbed wire fence one day which was separating him from some children who were trapped behind it in terrible conditions. He did what he could to get to know them and passed out the only treat he had with him; two little sticks of gum. Mr Brokaw went on to share a very touching story about this pilot finding a way to drop candy which was a part of his own army rations to these children via miniature parachutes as he flew overhead. His idea caught on first to other pilots and then to a larger then even larger group until finally people all over Europe and America knew about him and were sending him supplies to make more parachutes to drop down to these kids trapped behind the wall. You can find the whole (and probably more correct and certainly better-told) story in the book The Candy Bomber. It was a very tender story and as Mr. Brokaw began telling it a HUGE shimmering white length of fabric came dropping from the ceiling all the way to the floor of the stage just in front of the choir to serve as a screen, showing film and still shots of this amazing pilot, the children he met, his plane as he flew over and the parachutes he dropped. As the story came to its sweet and emotional conclusion, lights high in the roof over our heads slowly lit up, and a misty cloud of vapor began flowing followed by a gentle shower of snowflakes. It was an impressive sight and as we raised our heads to watch the snow come down, we heard the sound of a plane as if it were flying over and then to our shock and delight a shower of about 200 parachutes each bearing a small treat began drifting down to our outstretched hands. The effect was not only breathtaking but profound as we felt what it might have been like to receive a gift so beautifully delivered. Just that sight alone produced further tears and new appreciation for those people in this world who take the time and make the effort to give to others who need them no matter what side of the fence they are on. And just when we thought we had been filled to bursting, we saw the length of fabric release from the ceiling and begin to flutter to the floor. As it floated gracefully down, Tom Brokaw, to our total shock, proudly introduced Colonel Hal Halvorsen himself. The fabric hit the floor and there he was, 92 years old, standing there in his original flight suit with a huge smile on his face and his arms raised in the air. If I was crying before, I was sobbing and sobbing loudly after that. I couldn't contain myself. The entire audience roared in delight, surprise and joy as we lept to our feet to cheer for a solid five minutes for this man who had made a difference in the lives of so many.
Did I capture the experience at all? I'm not sure. I have never purchased a DVD of a Christmas choir performance before, but I might just have to. I feel blessed to have taken part in the experience and am so grateful to those who put this production and experience together and to The Becky for getting me there. Couldn't have asked for a better experience to celebrate the Christmas Season. I just wish the rest of my family had been there, along with I guess every other person on the planet.