On Carol Singers

Version 1.0 of 24/3/2010-8:55 a.m.

Every year, on Xmas eve, there is this custom here, where all the kids, get up in the early morning and start roaming the streets ringing the bells of various houses and singing a particular song to announce the coming of Xmas. For that, they are given either candy or money, which they collect. Not unlike Halloween in the States.

When I was young, I engaged in such practices myself. I vividly remember having collected around $35 one particular year, after spending the better part of the morning singing and ringing bells. We sang with the aid of small metal triangles on the shape of a bell, hanging by a thread, which were hit by a small nail like probe, making a gentle tingling sound. In fact, tradition still has it that those triangles are to be used for this particular song on Xmas eve.

What worries me lately, is that the kids are using progressively more sophisticated instruments. Eight years ago, they started using big harmonicas (of the Honer kind), and it was not uncommon to watch the kids completely master a single-melody song by pressing the right keys on the harmonica. It is interesting to note that the harmonica keys resemble the keys of the piano, so it was more than obvious that the kids had practiced for several days to master the song.

Anyway, four years ago, they started using portable electronic keyboards, which were strapped around their back. You know, like those guitar like instruments which have a complete clavier on their front side, and which can execute any polyphonic tune.

Two years ago, the kids started improvising as well. Not only the melody was clearly audible, but correct accompaniments could be heard, with chords and stuff.

This year, the kids started forming small bands, with all sorts of instruments in them. From portable electronic keyboards, to mini synthesizers, to violins and drums. One kid had an electronic greeting card that played the tune, and the other kids were following in accord, having completely tuned into the card's key.

They just rang the bell one hour ago, and one of them had a huge guitar. The second kid had the electronic card, the third kid played a harmonica and the fourth kid had a small violin. I mean, what the...?

The progressive increase in execution complexity is very suspicious. It means either that the kids are getting progressively smarter musically, or we are getting progressively dumber. Of course, it may simply be for reasons of pure entertainment and to collect more money, since the same event happens every year, so the smart kids need to impress the host better. In any case, I think they are succeeding insofar as the impression part is concerned.

On the second ring, I finally gave in and decided to join the small amateur band. The four kids executed the song while I was accompanying them on the piano. After we finished, the seventh floor neighbor happened to be coming down and wanted to give us all money. I humbly responded that I live here and it's the kids who should get it. The neighbor seemed to be momentarily unaware that I was not part of the band, even though I was dressed in my jumper suit. She somehow assumed that I was a Xmas eve pianist en tour, who, after ringing the bell, would sit on the local piano and play the song in whatever house I happened to visit at the time.

I am curious to see what they'll be using next year. Perhaps Nintendo programmable cartridges stuffed into their corresponding 32-bit processors which they will carry themselves along so they can proudly display their low level assembly programming skills in music synthesis.

I tell you, I am honestly thinking about it: Just put my upright on a portable device with wheels, and tour Athens playing various tunes. I would sure as hell make more money than what I am making now...

Merry Xmas to all.