Interesting lunch conversation the other day with other TFC chorus members between Holiday Pops performances. We talked about how, as much fun as the Holiday Pops is, in truth the Pops Orchestra would find very few volunteers from the chorus from the TFC if it wasn’t a requirement for staying in the chorus. Oh, sure, nothing is ever written out to this effect, as far as I’ve seen. But there’s very much an attendance and participation requirement as for being part of the chorus — stories abound of people not making later rosters after cancelling out last minute or missing too many rehearsals. A lot of us are part of the TFC because we love the higher level of performance (and accountability!) that comes with the pieces we do as well as the thrill of getting to perform at Symphony Hall or out in the Berkshires. So it’s understandable that the BSO/Pops require us to sing the Holiday Pops concerts — there are a lot of good singers, and why not judge just on your voice but also on your attendance, reliability, and availability?
It also made me feel bad for one singer who missed the morning concert that day; he had written down that he was doing 2 concerts but thought it was the 3pm and 7:30pm. He knows it’s a black mark that may come to haunt him some day when rosters are chosen!
Now, mind you, I love singing for the Holiday Pops. It’s been a part of my life for… 13 years? 14? I’ve lost count. But by the time you hit that 6th and 7th concert, you’re mostly Pops’d out. Especially given how busy December is for everyone anyways. There was a stretch of several years during which I was ONLY on the Holiday Pops roster, sort of the TFC Junior Varsity team. If you’re on that side roster, then you are very excited to be doing Holiday Pops! It’s your one chance all year to get on stage and be a part of the spectacle that is a Symphony Hall performance. I took great pride in those appearances. It helps to remember that. But that was a man in the desert happy to find an oasis. When you’ve got running water, the oasis pond looks kinda muddy… are you really gonna drink that?
We noticed that this year they stopped saying that we “sing for the joy of it” and that we were a “completely volunteer chorus” during our introduction. Now Keith Lockhart simply says that we “give freely of our time” during this busy season. Definitely more accurate. We give for free because we want to be a part of this chorus, and committing to 6-8 Holiday Pops concerts is the de facto admission price.