Christmas seems to arrive earlier and earlier with each passing year. Like most Americans, I used to roll my eyes as stockings, ornaments, and candy canes appeared on store shelves, even while jack-o’-lanterns still sat on neighborhood porches and costume-clad children eagerly scampered in the dark in search of free candy. I abruptly switched channels whenever my car’s radio blasted a chorus of “Jingle Bells” in early November and I refused to decorate the tree or belt carols in the shower until the day after Thanksgiving.

However, as I sat in rehearsal on a Tuesday night in early October after the first Atlanta Master Chorale Concert of the 2019-2020 season, it suddenly occurred to me that my stance on the appropriate spacing of various holiday festivities was more than a little hypocritical. As we started singing through “Carol of the Bells” and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” I was suddenly aware of the glaringly obvious fact that choirs always begin their Christmas preparations long before any department store starts arranging its festive annual window display. Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year for musicians, and with limited rehearsals and mountains of sheet music to master, preparations for Christmas productions usually begin as soon as the curtain closes on the final autumn performance. In my twenty-two years of singing, I can even recall times when I started rehearsing Christmas repertoire in August. How could I shake my proverbial fist at Hallmark, Macy’s, and even the local Kroger, while I, too, joyfully prepared for Christmas at absurdly early times of the year?

Several days later, with Halloween approaching, I heard Bing Crosby crooning […]