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A Christmas (computer audiophile) Story


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as told by a friend over glasses of wine…

 

 

*********

 

 

A cold evening, circa 19-something, maybe three weeks before Christmas.

He stood outside. Looking at his shoes, wondering if he should have bought that decent-looking pair of ankle boots (in shiny but stiff brown faux leather). Weathered Adidas sneakers are cool with jeans, right? The collar on the starched white shirt seemed too tight. The maroon bowtie and brown bolero probably looked stupid. And, he was pretty sure he had begun to sweat a little under the armpits.

 

A friendly head tap. “Hey, tuck in the shirt, fool, and let’s get in there. She’s probably inside.” He shrugged, muttered something suitable in reply, told himself this was a done deal... so, get a grip and roll with it. Not tucking in the shirt, he walked into the light and the noise of a gathering of too many people he did not know.

 

30 minutes later, he sighed. Holding on to a piece of paper with the lyrics to ‘Joy to the World’, his hand was trembling. Hoping he was (please) not the factor that was making the choir leader make everyone sing their parts again. For the 9th time, because something was not right, someone was off-key. Softer this time in the chorus part… but was he not already close to whispering?

 

After practice, she handed him a drink. Looking into his eyes, M said: “Thanks for coming. You don’t usually make an appearance in church, right? So, did you enjoy singing the carols with us?”

 

The most mesmerising girl he had ever seen in real life… and who bothered to acknowledge his existence in 16 years. Not too tall, not too buxom, and he liked slim girls. Something about her shining hair and eyes. She always dressed simple and wore a small golden cross.

 

Averting his eyes, a simple “yes” seemed to be the only right answer.

 

Sensing his discomfort, she smiled. “You look good. And, you should sing a little louder. It was difficult to hear you two rows up front,” M said, before two giggling (idiot) friends came to drag her away to the talk to the choir leader with long hair, tall, no visible pimples. Someone who knew how to play the guitar, and who seemed perfectly comfortable talking to many girls at once. Probably thinks he is a b***** rock star or something.

 

Three days before Christmas,

In the bus, M came to him (at the back). For the second night in a row, she sat next to him. Close enough to occasionally brush fingers, as they talked. About things seemed to matter but did not really matter.

 

He did not get it.

 

She could be with anyone else. He was not the tallest, the most athletic, smartest or richest amongst 12 guys. All he had was an attitude and, some say, a half-decent smile. Still, being grown-up enough, he grinned like a village idiot (inside), and as The Beatles counseled, ‘Let It Be’.

 

A loner, he also did not get why he was enjoying the fellowship of group carolling, singing for strangers. Night after night, a kitty went round for donations to an orphanage. Carollers sang for a soda or three, and servings of cakes and cookies... that were forthcoming as convenient, and always welcomed.

 

Christmas Eve,

and one last stop at a big bungalow on a hill. The carollers strode in two-by-two, into a huge, arched, darkened hall. A stereo was playing in the sitting room to the left. Bing was softly crooning about a ‘White Christmas’, with a little bit of help from glowing valves and humongous speakers.

 

“Darling, please turn off the stereo, the carollers are here to sing for us, live,” said a woman in red, with rosy cheeks and a welcoming smile.

 

The carollers got into place. There was half a big turkey on a nearby table to the right, permeating the room with a warm aroma. Quite a number of bottles of liquor on the large coffee table, alongside half-filled brandy snifters and a still smoking ashtray. The tree twinkled, tastefully decorated.

 

The audience comprised four well-dressed couples in their 40s and 50s. They had stood up, and were holding each other as couples, smiling with expectant eyes.

 

Someone struck the triangle, and from the first bar of ‘O Holy Night’, things fell in place. The acoustics, the ambience, the audience responding to the performers (and vice versa). Voices filled the space, the room spun, and everything everyone needed was somehow right there. It was suddenly, magically, Christmas.

 

Maybe too many songs later, one of the hosts convinced the choir leader that everyone deserved at least one small plastic cup of ‘punch’, to go with helpings of turkey, sausages, gravy, potato salad and bread pudding.

 

Past midnight, outside…

He sat on a garden chair, enjoying a moment (and the bite of the punch). He smelled her fragrance before seeing her silhouette. Quietly and softly, she sat down and leaned on his shoulder. Naturally, they forgot about the holly.

 

 

Many years later...

he woke up on the couch. The downloaded Vienna Boys Choir 2015 Christmas album had long played out on the computer audiophile system. He had nodded off somewhere amidst ‘Let It Snow’.

 

That was one good ride up the hill.

 

Feeling a need for some brandy, he poured a measure. Remembering: just a couple of hours ago, being swept by exquisite vocal harmonies... with nary a thought about bits-and-bytes.

 

We were never this good. But, that one night in that bungalow, how did we sound?

 

Only then did he notice some wetness on his cheeks.

 

 

*********

 

 

Cheers,

and Merry Christmas, one and all.

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Lovely.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> iFi NEO iDSD DAC -> Apollon Audio 1ET400A Mini (Purifi based) -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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