Thursday, December 22, 2011

O Holy Night!

My Mom made a big deal out of Christmas….from the Christmas tree and decorations to the candy and cookies.  Her favorite thing about the Christmas season was music.  Music was an integral part of who she was and how she thought…but at Christmastime it was even more pronounced. Mom was a classically trained pianist and vocalist.  My name, itself, came from one of her favorite operas, Carmen. When she graduated from high school she had scholarships to Stanford and the University of Idaho and was a Peabody award winner.  The fact that her boyfriend at the time when to the University of Idaho might have had something to do with her decision to go to school there.  But if she had wished – she could have aspired to bigger and better things.  Mom said that she never regretted choosing to be a wife and mother rather than a professional performer. If you talk to a certain age group around Lewiston, ID, Betty Tannahill Johnson is still a well remembered Lewiston performer.  Mom did share her gift with numerous students through the years as well as her church and especially her family.  Growing up, I can remember listening to all the old classics from Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Dean Martin or even the Chipmunks on the record player at Christmas.  I especially remember listening to my mother play and sing at the piano for hours at a time.  Even the last Christmas she was alive, she still spent time playing on her piano despite the fact that she was on oxygen and her hands were crippled with arthritis.

Mom singing with her granddaughters.
  Her grandchildren remember singing with her at the piano just as her children did.  Of all of the Christmas music that she played and sang, there was one song that to this day is extra special to me.

Mom was the choir director at our church as well as the organist.  When the opportunity arose, she was also the soloist.  At Christmas Eve Midnight Mass…Mom’s talent really shone.  She would usually have the children’s choir sing a few songs as well as her adult choir.  Everything was orchestrated and planned.  Then the time came for Mom to sing.   At Christmas, she usually chose “O Holy Night!”  As Mom stepped up to sing, the church waited expectantly.  They were used to hearing her sing – but when she sang “O Holy Night,” it was special.
Mom singing with her choir at St James Catholic Church.

Mom singing a solo.

  Despite the large crowd and standing room only space – as she began to sing, a microphone wasn’t necessary.  She could fill the entire church with her voice and she let her love of God shine through her special instrument.  To this day, when I hear “O Holy Night” I am always reminded of my mother.  I like to hear someone sing it that has a great voice because most vocalists don’t do the song justice.  I was spoiled by mother’s beautiful singing.  So, as Christmas Eve approaches and I lay down to sleep.  I will dream that I am once again a child listening to her mother sing and marveling that that beautiful voice belonged to my Mom.  Merry Christmas Mom!  I love you and miss you!