Two vignettes from our village carol singing:
Vignette one: the apple-cheeked villagers gather outside one of the cottages in the main street where an elderly couple live: she would have been out singing with us if she could but he is ill and too frail to be left on his own so we have come to them and strike up, surprisingly tunefully, Once in Royal David’s City, his favourite carol. The pair of them come to the door to listen and to tell the truth it’s kind of hard to hit those high notes when you’ve got a bit of a lump in your throat, but that’s Christmas.
Vignette two: safely in the village hall, replete with mince pies and tea and more or less thawed out, the village children volunteer to sing a couple of the carols that they have learned in school. They acquit themselves remarkably well with ‘Away in a Manger’ – from memory no less – and then launch into the inevitable ‘Little Donkey’* by way of an encore, once more from memory. The first verse passes off without hitch, and they launch boldly into the chorus, which goes well. Then they start the next verse … only they have forgotten the rest of the words so they sing the first verse again. And then the chorus. And then the first verse again. Slowly it dawns on the hall that we may very well be trapped into an eternity of Little Donkey, a carol that most people feel has delighted them enough the first time they heard it, and there seems no way out until the choirmistress – with the aplomb of someone who has spent a good few years wrangling our choir into a semblance of order – calls out ‘and we’ll all join in for the last chorus!’ and the evening is salvaged.
And if we all stumbled out into the darkness later with ‘little donkey … carry Mary … on the dusty … road’ stuck irretrievably in our heads, well it’s just a sign that no good deed ever goes unpunished.
Fortunately my sister seems to have had better luck.
*awkward because when the choirmistress was taking requests earlier, the table at the back had expressly asked for ‘anything but Little Donkey’