The living room is full — friends and acquaintances from Hungary, Latvia, Russia, Iran, Austria, the U.S., England, Korea. Christmas carols and a variety of musical performances (flute, piano, cello, violin, voice) mingle with conversation, laughter, and a hearty attempt to do justice the surplus of cookies, etc. Rachel is the mastermind behind the Advent party, but we’re both delighted with the turn-out and the fruition of hopes for making our home a place for music and hospitality. What better time to celebrate that Christmas!
Christmastime means Christmas markets…multiple locations around the city, from the ultra touristy Rathaus (city hall) to quieter nooks tucked in side streets. Lots of tasty looking goodies, wonderful smelling drinks, and a whole variety of artistic wares (kitschy to artisan). Saturday I came upon the added delight of a group of musicians in traditional dress, playing what I suppose were traditional Austrian Christmas carols. Despite the cold and misting rain, a group of listeners gathered, enchanted by the Old World feel and unique instrumentation, which included three alpine horns, maybe eight feet in length.
Experiencing the Christmas season in a new place certainly brings with it a mixture of what’s dear that’s missed (like decorating the Christmas tree with family tonight!), what’s novel (like advent wreaths in school classrooms and Christmas trees for sale at random street corners; or, more literally, joining one 7th form class in reading Dickens’ Christmas Carol), and what’s familiar but different at the same time (like the special Lesson and Carols service at church — a full building with some new faces, Scripture readings in German and English, lots of singing [and LOTS of piano playing], even a tiny a capella choir to join). Adaptation has a comical side: Determined to carry on a bit of Holder baking tradition, I found myself at Bobby’s British and American Foodstore looking for molasses. The shopwoman assured me that “black treacle” was an adequate replacement, even though the name sounds to me like a product in a mechanic’s shop (especially since the contents look a bit like crude oil). However, the first trays out of the oven (432 cookies, to be precise — yes, that’s 108 on four trays) taste pretty normal!
Obviously, not everything has been Christmas-themed in the past weeks. One highlight was celebrating with friend Julia her graduation from university — a double master’s in English and Spanish! The graduation ceremony included a good deal of tradition, not surprising considering the university was founded more than a hundred years before Columbus stepped foot in the New World (1365, to be exact)! After the graduation proper, family and a few friends shared the once-in-a-blue-moon treat of going to a very nice traditional Viennese cafe.
My first Klassenabend
Another highlight of the past couple weeks was my first Klassenabend (“studio evening”) at the university. About 10 student played — piano solo and collaborative music. I performed a few pieces from Schumann’s Dichterliebe (“Poet’s Love”) with a Iranian baritone. At dinner afterwards, I found myself between three conductor students — Korean-American, French, and Greek. Typical in a city full of internationals!
Well, since Christmas break isn’t quite hear yet, I’d better get some rest before the alarm clock rings. Since I won’t post again before Christmas, let me wish those brave souls who read the whole post a Very Merry Christmas! May the Savior who came in humility find ready hearts to receive Him afresh this season — casting our cares on Him who came to bear them, putting our hope in Him who will not disappoint, celebrating Him who is the King making all things new.