The tears came from a deep place. This season always reminds me of my mom because of the carols— she was a music teacher and my choir instructor in high school, and we performed a lot of Christmas music over the years. It used to be that I never really ‘felt’ the Christmas season until I sang carols, but slowly over the years the opportunities waned until I couldn’t depend on it anymore. Come to think of it, as a culture we don’t sing around campfires much now either, and singing happy birthday just doesn’t cut it. So are we losing our birthright to sing anywhere besides the shower? How many of us could sing more than two or three songs, all the verses?
As an aside, I’m a new Reform Jew now (a baby Jew, Jason calls me), and I’m still getting used to the changing role that Christmas has in my heart. It’s at least a relief to have the right to opt out of the frenzy even though I still carry on some of the traditions for my son. And I love singing the prayers during the morning Shabbat service.
But in addition to the emotional connection to Christmas, I think I was moved by the fairly new form of group/self-expression, or more to the point, an old form in a new context. Taking a choir out of it’s sacred setting and making it emerge—as if organically—from the most mundane situation was amazing. Technology has now made both the capturing and the distribution of video available to anyone, via tiny cell phones and social sites like YouTube (the in-between production is still something of a mystery to me, but my brother does it all the time with inexpensive tools). I guess the hope of a video going viral is part of the motivation to organize such a production!
We all want to be noticed, to have our 15 minutes of fame. But maybe more, we want to be remembered, and we want loved ones to be remembered. This flash mob choir will be noticed and probably remembered, and the video will be replayed by the singers’ kids and grandkids of the future. I’m grateful that I’m in touch with a few high school friends and acquaintances who remember my mother and the gifts she gave her students, but I have no videos, no moments of ‘fame’ to share with my son. I’m grateful she taught me to sing and so glad that we went to almost 10 years of opera seasons before she died. She would have loved the surprise show this choir put on. If she had been one of the startled lunch eaters, she would have stood up and joined in. I hope I would too, but I’m not sure. Maybe as such performances become part of the culture, we will all loosen up a bit and be willing to express our joyful song in public, in some cases just to participate, in others for the chance to be ‘immortalized’.