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My View: Getting a Handel on Christmas music

By Bob O'Connor

When my kids were little, it was easy to get into the Christmas spirit. We would take them downtown to see the AM&A’s windows (although the store was long gone, the animatrons were still there – maybe they were union). We would go to Chestnut Ridge for the hayride to Santa’s Shoppe and, of course, their school always had a holiday concert. Then, the weekend before the big day we would take them out to cut down the tree.

Now, it is just the three of us: my wife and I and a rather sad artificial tree. We’d love to go on the hayride, but people might think it odd to see a couple of seniors waiting in line to sit on Santa’s lap. So this year, we bought tickets to see Handel’s Messiah at the beautiful Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna. The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus was performing and the place was packed.

I have to admit, I am not much for high-brow music; I prefer Steely Dan.  To paraphrase Mark Twain, classical music is something everyone claims to love, but no one listens to. You would have to be dead, however, not to be uplifted by 100 well-trained voices belting out the Hallelujah Chorus. It is truly moving.

On the other hand, my mind sort of wandered during the solo performances. Don’t get me wrong, these people have amazing voices, I just have trouble understanding what they are singing. It was halfway through the concert before I realized they were singing in English – I thought it was German. These men and women can hold a note for half an hour, but they don’t enunciate. The alto’s voice was so deep it could have been Darth Vader up there, and the tenors did a lot of ooh, ooh, ooh’s and aah, aah, aah’s. I kept thinking of someone stepping into a hot tub. I know, I am a philistine.

Bob O'Connor

During my lapse in attention, I looked around at the magnificent architecture of  OLV. (The guy who built it ought to be a saint.) I couldn’t get over how many angels there were; there must be hundreds of statues and paintings depicting God’s air force. I remembered from my grammar school days that there are two types of angels. The first are the seraphim who are tall, beautiful, and androgynous spirits clad in flowing white robes.

Then there are the cherubim, who seem to be the Creator’s idea of comic relief. They are pudgy little dudes who have four faces and seem to be dressed in diapers; sort of roly, poly and holy. They are usually depicted as hovering about like drone babies. 

When I got home, I did a little research on these frequent flyers and learned that nearly 80 percent of Americans believe in their existence. Some polls show belief as low as one third, but that is still 110 million people. 

When I was a kid, I was taught that every one of us has their own guardian angel. These ghostly guards were always depicted as the statuesque seraphim. Clearly Satan would not be afraid of a bunch of chubby cherubs. According to my third grade teacher, whom I called Sister Doom, our personal angel not only keeps us out of harm’s way, but also keeps  the Evil One at bay.

I raised my hand and asked “How come my guardian angel let me fall off my bike and break my collarbone?”  Sister told me it was “God’s will” and then told me to sit down and be quiet. I got that a lot of that in grade school.

Bob O'Connor, of Hamburg, is ready to rush in where angels fear to tread. 



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