Perform the Rests

Any serious musician learns to “perform the rests,” as one of my choral directors taught me years ago. As important as paying attention to the dynamic markings, maintaining proper pitch and keeping the tempo are, ignoring the rests mars any performance. And this is performance weekend for the Garrett County Choral Society, so the Christmas music we have prepared this fall will finally have an audience of folks on this second weekend of Advent. The singers have given much attention to the louds and softs, staying on pitch, and not slowing the director’s tempo. But will we watch her closely enough to perform the rests? Paying attention to the rests makes the difference between an OK and an excellent concert.

With each passing year, I have a greater sense of performing the rests in the Advent season…and not just musically speaking. Not every Christmas cookie must find its way to the cookie tray; not all the rooms need Christmas decorations; not every card must be mailed by December 20th. The tyranny of the urgent destroys the sense of wonder that surrounds the incarnation. We can crowd in enough activities to merit Martha Stewart’s notice, yet miss the essence of the Word made flesh.  An evening spent sharing a serendipitious meal with the neighbors, a nap to regenerate my own body, or a Messiah CD and prayer from Valley of Vision can’t happen unless I perform the rests during Advent. When the social calendar shows almost every night booked with activities, decorating, cooking, and shopping, the metronome swings with the frantic pace know as the holiday season. A lively tune, the holiday celebrations may hit all the right notes, but I wonder if there would be less January depression if we performed the rests before December 25th. Wishing you a rest-filled Advent.


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