Monday, December 19, 2016

The N-Judah Temple

“This was the best yet!” Whenever I hear that—and I’ve heard it often in the past 10 years in regards to our school Holiday Plays, our Spring Concerts, my music sessions at the Jewish Home for the Aged and such—I breathe a sigh of relief that I haven’t yet started the downhill slope to losing it. That a lifetime of loyal practice keeps the fresh water from deep springs flowing, flushes out stagnation and continues to refresh our thirsty spirits.

And so it was last night with our 34th Goodkin Neighborhood Caroling Party. At first, so sad that Kerala and Ronnie and Zadie and Malik couldn’t come join us from Portland (they will soon) and that Talia had another plan in Tahoe, as did our former upstairs neighbors. But in the end, the folks that did come were fabulous and in fact, some of the strongest singers I can remember. And with the extra-added attraction of a mandolin and fiddle player!

We began, as always, with food, drink and socializing and then moved to the piano with the alphabetical songsheets, moving seamlessly through some 30 songs with some inspired part singing, mixture of styles and even a choreography with split groups and movements for The 12 Days of Christmas. We did a face-time with Zadie in Portland and Talia in Tahoe for one song each and then got ready to take to the streets.

Last year, we ventured out in light rain and made the best of it, but it was less than ideal conditions. This year, the air was seasonably brisk and cold and the sky clear and the 25-person group overflowing with spirit— and in-tune spirit at that! Our M.O. is to start singing and see who comes to the window and then swoop over to sing for them. At first, it seemed like people were just going to run for their cameras and take a photo and close the shades, but most actually stayed by the windows and opened them. After our song, we always ask for requests and that’s interesting too to see what, if anything, they know. The first request was for the carol I love to hate, The Little Drummer Boy. I tried to reject it, but the group overrode me! Well, we had fun with it at least. And the folks who requested it actually came out with cookies for the group!

Then came my now-favorite part that happened spontaneously a few years back.—a mass Carol Attack on the innocent passenger of the N-Judah streetcar, with permission from the driver to board for free and ride down a few stops. Permission granted and it was a Jingle Bells Flash-mob, with some riders characteristically looking down at their phone, others flashing photos and a few actually singing, with big encouragement from me. We then sang Silent Night and for 7 blocks, the streetcar became a sacred temple of sorts. And why not?

We tumbled out at 9th and Irving and went into Yancey’s Saloon to sing to an enthusiastic crowd. We pulled out our showstopper 12 Days and soon had everyone joining in at key parts, complete with motions. And just as happened last year, one of the customers was an ex-SF School student!!! On we went to the Crepevine and sang some more with two policeman there who showed no signs of wanting to arrest us. In fact, they sang also! And then the Eastbound N-Judah back with Joy to the World.

So now I’m adding Yancey’s Saloon and the N-Judah Streetcar to my resume, alongside countless schools, senior centers, concert venues, house parties and hopefully this Thursday, a woman’s prison. Every place on this earth can become a sacred temple, every person on this planet can join the choir. That’s my mission statement.

And you readers out there, I’m open for business. I’ll come running at your invitation, armed with Bulgarian bagpipes, Orff xylophones, rubber chickens, hands to beat the body and fingers to tickle the ivories and a voice ready to sing. Any takers?

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