Carols by Candlight – behind the scenes

We had our Carols by Candlight singalong session cum fundraiser for the Missions to Seafarers last night. I’d say *only by the Grace of God* did we get our act together! 😛
So many things happened that could have jeopardised the entertainment:
1. The guy who was supposed to set up our band equipment, was hit from behind by a taxi as he was driving to the church. So he came late and we barely had time to set up everything. Fortunately he and his wife were OK.
2. Because things were set up late, we could not have a rehearsal! Plus, we were all playing together for the first time. Luckily I had an earlier session with Marv so at least the piano and saxophone parts were worked out. Also I had sent MP3 recordings of our session to my bassist Richard T so he knew our style.
3. It started to rain. The organisers foresaw that and moved the event to the back of the church, where there was a roof and a makeshift shelter. However, water rolled off the roof and dripped onto our equipment, so we moved the band stuff further back and put the mic stands further up.
4. At the same time we were supposed to rehearse, the main church choir was also rehearsing, using the drum set and electric piano that we were planning to use. As there was little time left to move the piano, I settled for a lighter Roland keyboard which I’ve never played before. Fortunately it had most of the sounds I needed.
5. We were playing in relative darkness, because it was Carols by Candlight! Duh… so we attached clip-on lights to our music stands so we could read the notes. Still I had to peer at the scores and on one occasion, misread a note because it was not bright enough!
I really wanted to put in a good performance especially as this was for a good cause, and felt I could’ve done better. My self-critical summary: I started right, sometimes missed stuff in the middle but ended right. More importantly, we kept on going, and ended with a good, big coordinated jazzy bang. And most importantly, we served our purpose. The audience was singing and the children were entertained.
After the event was over, we all stayed back to pack up equipment and got to know each other better. All proceeds went to the [Missions to Seafarers]( and I hope they raised a decent amount of money.
I was going to meekly leave and not volunteer my services again, but I received some positive feedback from people who usually don’t praise me. I was also invited by our professional drummer Richard K to jam at a pub … so overall it must’ve been OK. I learnt 16 songs in a few days and my bassist had even less time so I’m not going to beat myself up about it anymore.
I also realised I should not expect to do everything in my own strength. At the start, I was concerned that we didn’t even have time to rehearse, but I said a prayer in my head and asked for things to turn out right. When you play long enough in bands, you’ll get used to the dynamics more quickly. When I felt my keyboards were getting too loud or clashing with the sax, I’d tone down.
It helps also to play with more experienced members who know what to do in impromptu moments – like a ‘baddaboom’ from the drums when Rev Mervyn Moore made one of his trademark jokes. We had a few of those!
Communication within a band can also be silent. Just a knowing look at the beginning or the ending of a song speaks volumes. I was amazed at how I would look at the drummer and we would end at exactly the same time. When I lifted my hands off the keyboard, his cymbals would stop sounding. Can’t beat playing with a pro.
We also have to be flexible. When Rev Moore saw so many lovely children dressed up for the Nativity scene, he asked us to play Away In A Manger first, which we did. When we started playing, we realised the children were singing at a different pace, so we made adjustments and guided them back to the tempo.
There was also a lot of humility, which helped. There should be no prima donnas in church bands. We were quick to say, “My bad” and move on from there, no grudges held. Think of the song [Heart of Worship](, which says it all. Overall, considering all factors, it was great teamwork. Amen!