Dec7ThuRetrospective #55 December 7, 2017 Randy C. Hicks
The Christmas Kettle Campaign of course is not our only special tradition this time of year. In some corps people still do “Community Cares Ministries” (League of Mercy) Visitation or Cottage Meetings (Hospitals and other Care facilities) where “Sunshine Bags” are distributed; then there’s caroling with our musicians – Bands (Senior and Y.P.), Songsters, Singing Company, Men’s (Men’s Fellowship) and Ladies Ministry groups (Home League etc.); special corps/community Christmas Dinners are held; Toy and Food (Hampers or Vouchers) distribution is still happening to name the most prominent while not even thinking of the numerous personal efforts by Soldiers, Adherents and Friends of the Army! ‘Tis the Season to be busy and maybe just a little tired!
The original copy of the featured cartoon accompanying this piece was a gift from a dear friend. It drops the needle on my album of Christmas memories and immediately a ministry called “Serenading” comes to mind. At the age of twelve or thirteen it was my privilege to join our Senior Band and when December rolled around the band room buzzed with this word. I had no idea what folk were talking about but I was soon to find out!
The following “cut” is perhaps more of a “medley” of different memories than it is just one but likely to strike a number of “chords” in your “play list” just the same! Enjoy!
We met at the appointed time in the designated room. It was already dark outside and someone said the weather was good but might change before midnight. I was the novice in the group and had never participated in such an activity before.
Turning to my friend CD, I asked “Did you bring the stuff?” C.D. responded, “What stuff?” “The stuff! The stuff! The stuff!” I said, half under my breath. “Gentlemen, would you be looking for this perhaps?” Turning we looked into the face of F.S. “Is that it?” I whispered, “Is that the alcohol?” “Of course it is can’t you tell from the smell?” said C.D., wrinkling his nose. “What do we do with it?” I blurted, “This is my first time you know.”
With great patience F.S. showed us how to take the valves from the cornet and horn and then sprinkle a little Rubbing-Alcohol on each, not too much, just enough to keep them from freezing in the cold air. I then gently wrapped my wool scarf around and through the slides ending at the bell, with enough scarf left to tie a neat knot. I was to stuff the knot into the bell as we moved from point to point to prevent the icy wind from causing havoc with the instrument.
With our winter coats, caps, boots and gloves we stepped out into the December snow and scurried to our first stop, right outside the Home League Secretary’s house. Under the nearest street light, we climbed onto the snow ploughed up by the side of the road while trying to balance ourselves rather than tumble into traffic. The Band Master called out the number. It was number 72 in the green book (Christmas Praise). We turned up the number, which I later learned was her favorite, and it was official; I was “serenading”; “Christmas Serenading” to be exact! Half way through the first verse of Good King Wenceslas, I realized my playing might improve (there was no guarantee) if I took the knotted scarf out of the cornet bell!
For the next couple of hours we marched through the night, less dark as the lights reflected on the path of white before us. Like soldiers on a mission through that part of town we stopped only to share yet another oldie but goodie outside the homes of shut-ins and elders. In the meantime other corps members had joined us and they visited the folks delivering cards and copies of the Christmas War Cry. Sometimes singing as we played or praying with dear souls as needed. At the end of the evening as we worked our way back to the hall it started to snow and I thought we’d have to stop playing. No sir! We never missed a spot and completed the evening’s assignments we had set out to do by playing “It Came Upon The Midnight Clear.”
Back at the barracks we laughed as we remembered a few sour notes along the way and reflected on the many cheerful responses we’d received from the people. Monday’s mission was complete. I could hardly wait for Tuesday evening to come!