5. The First Noel

Sequoia Junior High School Boys' Senior Glee 1974-75

During December, I’m posting my Top 10 favorite holiday songs. Each song has a special story or meaning behind it for me. What stories or meanings do you have for your favorite holiday songs?

Your favorite holiday song can get you singing along. But how many songs can get you singing in harmony? “The First Noel” does that to me. Whenever I hear it, I instinctively sing the bass part. I can’t even sing the melody. Why? I blame that rite of passage every boy goes through — puberty.

Men are asked, “When did you go through puberty?” I know the exact moment. It was when I went from soprano to bass in Sequoia Junior High School Boys’ Senior Glee. I was still a soprano in the eighth grade picture you see above. (I’m the one in the top row who didn’t know the proper way to wear a collar.) We were called first tenors, but our sheet music still said we were sopranos.

The next year, I was in the bass section. It made me feel manly to be singing with the basses, but I then had to switch from singing melody to harmony. Often, the harmony parts sounded more interesting than the melodies. That was the way the bass line of “The First Noel” was for me. From the time I learned the bass of “The First Noel,” it has stuck with me ever since.

Another part of my Sequoia singing experience stuck with me: I still have that red sweater I wore in the glee club. I’m not sure if I still have that bow tie. Probably not, because I hated that thing. It was ugly and uncomfortable.

So, if you want me to sing “The First Noel” in your caroling group, remember to bring a few sopranos to carry the melody. However, it might be interesting for an audience to hear how the bass part goes.

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