First, you start on the Sunday evening after October Conference weekend. Then you make sure you have a small but secure supply of muslin and Krazyglue. You’ll want to watch for sales on nanoweb coated guitar strings. You must be willing submit to internal wrestlings over how to bend certain copyright protocols to your unique needs-or, rather, to needs that you tell yourself are unique. Also locate somebody who’s fluent in Gaelic. Pack a second music conducting baton. Pretty much disregard the Fourth Commandment for at least one Sabbath and on the day after purchase an unusual amount of Oreos. Finally, prepare yourself to be pricked in your heart to compose a complex piece of literature in great haste.

I’m going to put this into what my left-brained corporate friends call “bullet points,” which is a form they like. (I have a few military friends and even more hunting friends; neither of these groups has expressed a preference for bullet points, which I find somehow ironic.)

  • Begin preparing on the Sunday evening after October General Conference weekend.
  • Secure muslin.
  • Secure Krazyglue.
  • Locate six sets of nanoweb coated guitar strings for the price of four.
  • Rationalize the bending of copyright protocols.
  • Find a Gael.
  • Double up on batons.
  • Ignore Moses.
  • Stockpile Oreos.
  • Compose complex literature.

By the bullets, then:

  • You will, on the second Sunday evening of October, welcome about seventy-five singers from the community into the stake center by the roundabout. This will be for the first rehearsal of the thirty-second annual presentation of the choral concert “Joyful Christmas Sounds.” You will also be prepared to negotiate with the producers over who will offer apologies, condolences, or legal counsel (whichever is approprate to each case) to those singers who have been turned away because there aren’t enough seats in the choir, even with many illegally placed folding chairs. (Early October may seem premature to start preparing for Christmas ((I stood in line at the pharmacy this afternoon behind a lovely woman who answered the pharmacist’s question “Well, are you ready for Christmas?” with “Oh, yes. I do all my shopping in October and wrap everything in November. Then I just enjoy the Christmas season!” You’re supposed to not eavesdrop on the details of other customers’ prescriptions, but the instructions the pharmacist then gave her were “Take three of these daily with meals to reduce smugness.”)) but really you will have been planning since early September, which is later than if part of your observance of the holiday were to include releasing a Christmas CD, in which case your Yuletide spirit would kick in about coincident with tilling your garden. Neighbors will be amused by hearing you humming “Do You Hear What I Hear” as you shove down those beet seeds.)
  • Securing the muslin won’t be all that tough, because your wife will have given you three or four years ago enough to last the next several decades (about a third of a yard)-but you can’t take for granted that it will always be where you left it. If your kids are anything like mine, flashlights, chewing gum, and muslin will disappear like, well, flashlights, chewing gum, and muslin. This muslin will enable you to fashion a new set of nails for the index, middle, and ring fingers on your right hand about every three or four days to see you through the playing of numerous Christmas-related gigs. Sierra West Jewelers, Moyle Park Ward Christmas party, your own primary kids and ward party, the friends and extended family of the Macdonalds up the street-stuff like that.
  • You will cut the muslin into fingernail-shaped segments. The first application of Krazyglue will be the kind that goes on purple and dries clear, except it doesn’t. Dry clear, I mean. (There is a reason for this choice of “purple first.”) Upon this fresh application, you will place the muslin segments, one per finger. You will immediately, still with the purple kind, apply a coat that will soak through the muslin and bond with the glue underneath. When that coat is dry, you will apply the final coat of purple, then sand your work smooth with 160 grit paper. Then you will apply over the ensuing hours several coats of the kind of Krazyglue that goes on clear and dries clear. (You will apply these coats on the muslin and not on the ensuing hours.) This is because if you continue with the purple, you will look as though you are severely anemic or similarly afflicted. Or like you have purple nail polish on only three of your ten fingers, which might suggest to folks that you are mentally afflicted or excessively creative, either of which might explain the wearing of a white glove on only one of two hands, fr’instance.

You will go through this preparatory process because you have the world’s weakest nails, so weak that the screen name by which you are identified on the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum is “Frailnail.” (This will also explain why, if you visit and get a reply to any of your comments, the reply will be signed “Frailnail,” which was an unpleasant surprise to the creator of the blog but apparently can’t be changed-so watch out what you put onto the Internet cause it’s all, well, connected.)

  • Your next step in Christmas preparations will be to find a sale on nanoweb coated guitar strings, which is a slam dunk, because advertisements for such will be found in the right hand column of your Facebook page. This is necessary because the Celtic band with which you play requires you to pound strings with a violence that suggests that the violent pounding of strings is going out of style. Like hotcakes. Put together.
  • As you try to locate extra copies of certain pieces of Christmas choral music that you originally purchased in the early seventies, you will learn after extensive research that they are out of print. You will then think to yourself “Hot dang! I can photocopy them! The publishers deserve for me to do this!” But you will have internal wrestlings with your conscience and extensive rationalizings of the letter and spirit of the principles of copyright law. The wrestlings will expand your spirit and the rationalizings will expand your mind. Cherish this form of Christmas conflict resolution as being much more constructive than, say, pepper-spraying your Black Friday competitors in Wal-Mart.
  • Find a native Gaelic speaker, because your Celtic band doesn’t have one, which is like a/an R&B band having all white guys. (Or maybe she’ll find you, and she’ll look terrific and Celtic and sing good, and her name will be something like “Sinead Ryan” ((no kidding!)), and how can you beat that?!) (Our band used to be called “Annie’s Romance” because our flautist ((oddly enough, a person who plays the flute rather than the flaute)) was always having them-but she moved to L.A. and now we’re looking for a new name. The name I want ((the name I’ve always wanted for a band)) is “Boozy and the Hawks,” at which some of you will laugh uproariously and others ((sadly, most)) of you will be utterly non-plussed. It’s okay, I like both kinds of you.)
  • Pack your other conducting baton (I have two-I made both of them, one from a dowel and Sculpy and the other from a four-wheeler’s busted-off radio antenna I found on the top of a ridge west of where I live) because in the passion of conducting certain choruses from Handel’s “Messiah” which your “Joyful Christmas Sounds” choir will sing, you may inadvertently pitch one of these batons into the alto section and have to grab for a spare.
  • On the day of the JCS performance, you will have to wink in the direction of Mt. Sinai, because you will first pluck your muslin-encoated fingernails through several original songs for the junior primary in your ward and then encore the whole thing for the senior primary.

    Then you will eat six pancakes and go to ward choir, which you conduct. This is the brand-new choir that you love because so many came and because six or eight of those who came are, in fact, bright-eyed children. You further love them because when your ward was recently divided, all the music went into the other ward, where a competent organist, conductor, Tabernacle Choir member, or Manhattan-based violinist, and the Five Browns lurked behind every bush, and yet your new ward wanted with all its heart to have a choir, so they doggone came! And they sound terrific! (This whole apparent music famine was a challenge for my wife, who was called to be the ward’s first music chairperson ((the bishop calling her said it was “Queen of Ward Music”)). One after another ward member who was rumored to have a piano lesson or two said, “Oh, but I could never play in public.” And then, about the time our Queen of Ward Music was temporarily un-tabernacled, she began getting emails from the “Organ Brigade.” She’d previoiusly gathered a half-dozen of these reluctant muses into the chapel for an evening with the stake organ guru and they’d caught the organic vision. Now we have one of these different aspiring organists each Sunday, bravely courting that complex instrument with four limbs ((It’s not the instrument that has four limbs, it’s the organists. The instrument, however, is complex enough to require four limbs to play it. There are pedals as well as two keyboards, called “manuals.” The Tabernacle organ has about fifteen manuals, and you have all seen it played in recent conferences by an actual committee of organists. But even that organ is a simplification of the organs of the Baroque era (((the time of J.S. Bach)), when enthusiasm for involving players’ available appendages was so rampant that organs had not only pedals and manuals, but “linguals” (((usually only one))) which were played by the organist’s tongue. Unfortunately, perhaps, none of this music has survived.)) Each of these valiant souls practices the hymns she thinks she can handle for the following Sunday-we’ve sung “How Gentle God’s Commands” three times in two months, but the repertoire is expanding at a dizzying pace.)

Then you will conduct “Joyful Christmas Sounds,” in which you will also play with “Boozy and the Hawks” and conduct all the occupants of the stake center (by the roundabout), packed to the back of the gym (including the stage) in rousing carols, which they will sing with passion and heart and longing and joy. And you, running on pure adrenalin by now, will call upon your deepest reserves of strength just to hold onto baton number one all the way through the evening.

  • Which is the reason for the Oreos, to be consumed between yawns upon the following day. Which is today.

The last bullet [], composing complex pieces of literature in haste? This will be because the editors and owners of Meridian Magazine sang in your choir (tenor and alto) and you kind of think you owe them a column before Wednesday.

Merry Christmas!