Saturday, December 17, 2005

Take Christmas. Please.

Y'know I wish that bloody Grinch would steal Christmas.

Sitting at home again tonight nursing my misanthropy, dark furry and familiar little puppy that it is, telly droning in the background, tapping away at the computer. At first I didn't really notice what was on but pretty soon it became clear that it must be the Carols in the Domain time of year again. And, whoopee, this year they're the Woolworths Carols to boot! Kewl. Just like the olden days when Lordit Inbred III indulged the wassailing serfs for one brief Christmas moment, returning a fraction of the fruits of their labours as a token, but I digress…

I remember as a little kid being quite fascinated by the David Jones Christmas family advertisements on television, vaguely ashamed that my family was nothing like them, eyes drawn to the fabulous presents under the perfect tree. The beaming smiles, group hugs and poignant moments with Grandma looked a bit unfamiliar too but hey, what the hell did I know. Maybe other families were like that. But even then, Christmas was still something fairly local.

I remember going to Carols in the Domain a few years after I moved to Sydney thinking it might be good to partake of some of that public peace and goodwill to all men. And if that failed, I knew I would still enjoy the thousands of bats that fly around the Domain's fig trees at sunset - they never fail to please. But instead of participating in a candle-filled night of song and celebration, we became the "audience" for a spectacle being manufactured and beamed to the rest of Australia, complete with the host celebrity following a script, settling the peasants during station commercial breaks and urging us back into life when the cameras came back on. Most of the crowd couldn't see much of the action on the stage given the size of the event so the majority of us watched the whole thing on giant screens beside the stage, seeing the same show as anyone else who was at home watching television, apart from the bit parts we played as the happy crowd whenever we were required to cheer.

Yet as I watched tonight, on the small screen, I began to wonder do we really need Dorothy the Dinosour and the Wiggles to facilitate our annual dose of collective song? And even if their inclusion can be justified by the sheer numbers of children who absolutely love them, what's the excuse for the other minor celebrities? Is Carols just another fetish on their altar of ego? Where they would do anything for the attention?

But no. Surely noone in their right mind would want to sing "Little Drummer Boy" in front of hundreds of thousands of people, trying to remember how many bloody pa-rapa-pum-pums there are before the next bit, just to get admired by an audience? I remember how mortifying it was to sing it at school even without the weird time signatures. No. There must be some other reason. Though I'm yet to discover it.

And the poor crowd has no hope of singing along most of the time anyway. For a start too many of the songs are unfamiliar to the audience, American imports generating images of Father with his politically incorrect pipe, standing by the fire roasting chestnuts, snowflakes falling prettily outside the window. In other cases, where there might be more hope of participating in traditional and well known pieces, they're turned into cabaret arrangements where no-one has a hope of singing along unless they attended the rehearsal and learned the secret handshake. Which may not be such a bad thing given how Australians sing, but still, it's a bit churlish on the part of the organisers.

And can you imagine what poor John Lennon would make of the decision to engage Leo Sayer to sing Merry Xmas (the War is over)? Talk about incongruity! Not that there's anything wrong with Leo Sayer, but it’s a bit like Mork from Ork being invited to host Live Aid (tho' given my feelings about the insufferably pious and irony-deficient Bono, that's perhaps not such a silly idea...) And as if that’s not enough they're now threatening to bring out David Hasselhof next. Good lord!


Hahahaha!!! That wasn't disappointing in the least. Wish I’d filmed it or something. His song was God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman. Nice sturdy tune, no-nonsense pace, minor chords keeping it all in check. Except that if you were a Trobriand Islander you’d have wagered all your yams on the certainty that he was singing the story of Exodus. Or perhaps Odysseus’ reunion with Penelope. No, the Hoff did not disappoint at all (and really I had to hold my sides during the third verse when he swayed from side to side with his arm in the air - if someone had put a cigarette lighter in his hand it could've been an AIDS fundraiser or Tsunami appeal).

And much as I clucked and chuckled through many of the minor musical crimes committed during the evening, I really did need to take my hat off to the woman who sang one song in particular (which I cannot name because I just couldn’t bear for her to ever read this) like she was bashing a saucepan with a spoon. I actually turned from the computer to watch the whole thing because it was so startling. But at least the crowd would have been able to keep up with that one, so I suppose some community singing did become possible on the night.

I was surprised to note that there were no public warnings about terrorism or the need for huge numbers of police to protect the crowd. But then again it must have been self evident that no terrorist in their right mind would put themselves through that for the sake of a mere holy war.

While it was fun in parts, I had to sigh with relief at the end when they sang Go, Santa, Go.

And finally they went.

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