Keeping Christmas

. . .and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well . . .  May that be truly said of us, and all of us!  “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

Many years ago, I went on an overseas musical tour to entertain the troops during the holidays. I didn’t think it would bother me to be away for the holidays but Christmas Eve found me in tears. In a lovely tropical land, but with nothing to give as gifts except stale candy and magazines from the tiny PX, and performing Christmas music for an audience that was in holiday denial, I was sorry I had agreed to the trip. A fortuitous invitation to a midnight mass changed everything for me. On a warm tropical night, in a soaring cathedral built of Philippine mahogany but with no walls, people gathered by candlelight to celebrate Christmas. Sweet voices rose in singing “Silent Night” to the accompaniment of acoustic guitars, the original instrument used for that lovely carol. I felt all preconceptions and expectations about the holiday slip away from me – the night was magical, a quiet miracle. When I returned home, I remembered Scrooge’s change of heart and vowed to “keep Christmas” any time I had the chance but also to remember that it was bigger than custom and ritual.

Jump forward 25 years. When asked to write and record a pop style song for a Christmas CD, I remembered that remarkable Christmas Eve. The lyrics were written in ten minutes during a chamber music concert on the back of the program. Influenced by the music that was being performed at the time, I included two violins and a cello in the score and “Christmas In My Heart” was recorded for the “Christmas at Duquesne, Vol. 2 CD”.

This song is dedicated to everyone who finds themselves away from home during the holidays, with a gentle reminder that you carry the real meaning inside of you. Trust that magic will happen.

Christmas in My Heart

©2008 Lynn Emberg Purse, All rights reserved

If there was no tree this year, no rows of twinkling lights,
no ornaments, no bells to ring, no frosty snowmen bright.
I’d miss the cheerful bustle with which the season starts,
but no matter where I find myself, I’ll keep Christmas in my heart.

If there was nobody singing carols, no cups of Christmas cheer,
no bows, no boxes, no ribbons to tie, no special gifts to share.
I’d miss the sounds, the sights, the smells with which the season starts,
but no matter where I find myself, I’ll keep Christmas in my heart.

I may be so far away, missing everyone I love,
Standing on unfamiliar ground where nothing looks like home.

Yet in a quiet moment, in a starry silent night
the shortest day is over and the dawn is growing bright.
I sing an alleluia and a candle lights the dark.
No matter where I find myself, no matter where I find myself,
no matter where we find ourselves,
we’ll keep Christmas in our hearts, in our hearts.

Lynn Emberg Purse, Vocals and keyboards; Bill Purse, bass, sound engineer and producer; Rachel Stegeman and Charles Stegeman, violins; Chris Bromley, cello; Billy Kuhn, drums. CD available for purchase from the Duquesne University Mary Pappert School of Music, 412-396-6080. All proceeds go to support scholarships for music students.

A special thanks to those who provided photos, especially Andrew Fichter and Michael Ortiz.  Many photos were also provided by Photos8.org and Photos Public Domain – please support those public domain/creative commons websites that provide beautiful photos at no cost and support artistic creativity.

Another Christmas post you may like: Father Christmas

Text and media of “Keeping Christmas” ©2011 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved

25 thoughts on “Keeping Christmas

    • James, thanks for visiting and for the comments. I must say that I am most impressed by your blog (left some comments there) – really intriguing point of view and lots of music that I truly love from the 60’s.

  1. Pingback: Father Christmas: A Musical Christmas Card | composerinthegarden

  2. Thanks for the reference on Silent Night. My partner is of German descent, born in Germany and he knows this carol in German first in his life, not English.

    I love your theme header!! Very suitable.

    • I also love the idea of it being accompanied by a guitar, especially since my husband is a guitarist. When I was a church musician, we often used only guitars to accompany the congregation singing it during the candlelight service. Here’s a YouTube link to a beautiful version sung in German, with guitar (maybe synth guitar?) accompaniment. Enjoy!

  3. A very nice sentiment embedded in both the preface and the song itself; not incidentally, you did a fine job with the video as well.

    If I read the credits correctly, the vocals and keyboard performance are yours as well–and further reason for congratulations!

  4. Lynn: I dropped by because you left a comment on my blog. I love your writing and music. I am a musician so this really touched the core of me. Have you ever seen the movie, Joyeux Noel? It is a foreign film about a true story, when a segment of WWI stopped while the two sides fighting sang Christmas carols together. It was electric and a true example of what you wrote. All the best. Please stop by again and I’ll be sure to visit you as well.

    • Eleanor, thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind comments. Joyeux Noel is one of my favorite movies ever, deeply moving and I am honored to have my little song related to it. I just finished reading several more of your posts- you have a way of evoking laughter and tears all at the same time, a very powerful voice indeed. I look forward to being a frequent visitor.

  5. Lynn – As usual I am moved by your writings; it brought me to tears. Thanks for the great reminder as we launch into the hussle and commercialism that Christmas brings with all the sales and gift-buying. We’ve always tried to focus on the true meaning with spending and lavish gifts kept to a minimum, rather, enjoying our time with family and friends shared over a great meal.
    Thanks very much for sharing, Paula

    • Rah-loo, rah-loo . . . I love the original Grinch. Dr. Suess is hard to beat, so I take that as a compliment. Yes, I did write the lyrics and the music. For me, the lyrics always come first but words have such a powerful internal rhythm and tone that the music is not far behind.

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