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Merriness pleasing to the heart and ear Richard Pena | Sat, Dec 22 2012 12:00 PM

In a few days we will once more celebrate Christmas.  All the preparations that have gone into the anticipation of this most holy of days will climax. The children will be at the height of enjoyment — as it should be — and the parents will heave a sigh of relief, also, as it should be.  The rest of us will just settle into whatever mode we settle into at this time and try to marshal our thoughts into those things which are positive and try to understand those things which are not.

In past years it has been my custom to write a nostalgic Christmas column, recalling events and scenes of past Christmases, particularly those times that I had spent with children.

Those were the instances that I had spent shopping with them in downtown San Diego with descriptions of what downtown was in those days. The other day, just for old time’s sake, I asked Patty, my caregiver, to drive me downtown and let me view the sights through the car windows. Sorry to state it was not the same. I suppose one has to walk the streets, examine each shop window and digest that that is there to fully appreciate the scene.  Alas, I can no longer do that so the old times have to remain as memories only.

To keep things in a positive manner, however, I reminded myself that I had already written two pieces about symbols of Christmas, the Magi and Christmas trees, but had not touched on the one symbol that stands out above all others, the music associated with the season.

This past week I had the occasion—and also pleasure—of observing and participating in two events both richly endowed with the music of the season and both performed by highly talented groups.

The first of these was at the Sweetwater Woman’s Club. I had been asked some days ago, by Diane Pistole, a club member, to attend the club’s annual Christmas tea. I recalled that this event featured some sort of music ensemble and I certainly did not want to miss that one.

Performing that day was a musical group, a choir really, from Olympian High School.  Olympian is a relatively new high school in the Sweetwater District located in the Eastlake section of the city.  The choir was led by Jennifer Opdahl, a musician in her own right.  Accompanied by pianist, Paul Plunk the choir had a repertoire of seasonal tunes, enough to delight anyone, even the ones with Scrooge tendencies had there been any of those present.

The melodies included some light, airy tunes climaxed with the classic, the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.  

The choir, as expected was, of course, called back for an encore and they did their rendition of “Jingle Bells” something that I had never heard before.  Also performing that day was a young lady, Elise Hall, the granddaughter of one of the club members, Lois Franke.

Opdahl has promised to keep me in mind for any future programs they might have this coming spring.  This is a group of singers that I do not want to miss.

Later in the week the Merrie Ukes, the local ukulele ensemble entertained a large group of Christmas, music lovers at the Bonita/Sunnyside Library Community Room.  Led by the master of ceremonies impresario John Porner, the group demonstrated their versatility by entertaining in various languages that included German, Japanese, Hawaiian, Spanish as well as the standards in English.

This program was reprised a few days later at the Paradise Village Retirement Home in National City.

Reams of material have been written on the magic of music when it comes to soothe the restlessness within the troubled spirit.

Let us hope that this season, so rich with the melodies of joy and love, may do just that, and bring solace to those needing it.  It certainly has, for some, in the South Bay.

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