I want to pen a developer's diary, of sorts, for the whole process, so that when future me thinks of doing something similar he can look back and remember some very important pieces of information. The Christmas Eve and Day services (linked below) were very simple and lovely, and I am so grateful that my family is in a pod together and able to join me to lead some beloved carols for Christmas Day. Lessons and Carols, though, needs a bit of explication.
When I first pitched the idea of putting together a service of Lessons and Carols remotely - with members of the choir singing choral anthems and hymns, and members of the congregation submitting the lessons - I conveniently forgot the reason that church worship teams like to do Lessons and Carols services in the first place. Absolutely, they are beautiful showcases of some of the best music our tradition has to offer, and absolutely, they let us engage with the Christmas story and the scripture of God's saving grace in a novel way, but the reason leaders love them is because they're less work. After all the planning that goes into Christmas Eve, the priest, deacon, choir director, worship leaders, and altar guild are more than happy to sit back and spend a Sunday morning afterward singing some carols out of the hymnal, leading a few anthems that the choir already sang earlier in the season, and listening to folks from the congregation - who maybe didn't have the opportunity to participate before - come up and read the lessons.
Then that all came to me, and I spent more hours myself earlier this week in my own editor making sure that all of the audio levels were balanced, that no one voice overpowered any others, running noise cancellation, and getting a good, single audio track for each of those four pieces. Then came the 14-hour marathon editing session on the 23rd, where I took video of the singers, trimmed, looped, cut, and compiled them all together, put them on a nice background (a stock video of our lit advent wreath for which I thank God about once an hour that I thought to film last week) and synched it all up with the music. Then, while waiting for those complex files to render into individual videos, running upstairs to record myself in my room, belting out the hymns for which we just didn't have enough time to record the whole choir while listening to an accompaniment track that had been sent to me (and then editing those together). Then, once I had individual videos for all nine pieces of music, plus a prelude and postlude, I combined all of them with the lessons recordings into one big video project, with fades and transitions and title sequences and everything. Overall I would say that the editing process on my end took at least 20 hours, and I tried desperately to get it all done before Christmas so I could relax (and came pretty close; there was just one last lesson to slot in before rendering this morning).
But then I thought about how blessed I was that all of this was possible. That despite being laid off at the start of the pandemic I managed to receive unemployment, giving me the time and resources to devote to projects like this. That I have this incredible musical gift to share, that lets me just go upstairs and crank out a hymn in good voice. That I have my family with me at Christmas, and they're willing to share their musical gifts to make it all happen. I thought about all the incredible hard work that so many people put in outside of me, collaborating to make it happen. And I listened to a young member of our congregation sing the first verse of "Once in Royal David's City" alone from her living room, and it is the most perfect version that I have ever heard, and I dare say I ever will hear. I'm crying now just writing about it, which makes the typing all the more difficult :)
All Saints' Festival of Christmas Lessons and Music is set to premier at 10:15am on Sunday, December 27th, at https://www.allsaintspdx.org/live/. I'm here to tell you, folks, it's pretty darn good! Thank you again to everyone involved, and a very Merry Christmas to you all!
If I ever suggest doing a project like this again, don't stop me, per se, but consider reminding me what it takes so I'm ready (and maybe encourage me to get started a little earlier, ha ha!)