Life flies by. Time passes before my mind can catch up. My conscious mind reveals the reality that already was. And I am left wondering where did those hours go. It never seems to slow down, instead time just moves faster. The kids are growing into adulthood and I am feeling older. The cold mornings tug at me like I am supposed to be somewhere else. Where did the time go? I had my whole life in front of me and now I say those words to my kids. This pace is crazy. Am I really supposed to keep up? I don’t want to. I like my own pace. I need an escape.
One such escape comes my way each November or December, depending on the year. It may sound strange to many of you, but I escape for 3 hours each year at a Christmas concert. A concert, and a band I have shared with almost everyone I know. I have personally taken dozens of people to these shows myself. I have given dozens more of their Christmas CD’s as gifts. I have been escaping with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra every winter since 2000. Sunday afternoon, November 13th was this year’s escape.
By the time, narrator, Bryan Hicks is a couple of sentences into the show, my throat has a lump in it, shivers travel up and down my spine like it’s an information super highway, and tears stand by at the corners of my eyes. Pretty much anything and everything that plagued me, or otherwise consumed a conscious thought in my mind, before I sat in my seat, melts away like snow on a warm spring day, and escape, I do.
You see these three hours are mine, and I love every second of that time. So much so, that I can’t help but share them with those close to me. I could probably go on for hours when it comes to the subject of my escape with, or to TSO.
I saw TSO for the first time in 2000. I had to drive to Albany, NY to see them, and I did. Last night I had to drive only to Manchester, NH to see them, and I did. Every year I am there. Twelve straight years and in several years I saw them more than once. That’s a lot of hours I have escaped with TSO and that’s not even the half of it. There’s the hundreds of hours I have listened online or to each of their albums I own.
Admittedly I love the music. I love the renditions they do; of everything. I love the vocals. I love the instruments coming together as one heart pounding, amazingly, beautiful sound. A sound that I never want to end. The message in the narration, in the music, is really where I lose myself for hours on end. The words, the message, delivered beautifully to a variety of fans from all walks of life. I wish I too had a vehicle so spectacular in which to deliver the same message.
This year the show was a lot closer to Veteran’s Day or Thanksgiving then it was to Christmas, but that’s no excuse not to enjoy the Christmas spirit on any day of the year. As lyrics I heard last night would suggest:
“If our kindness
This day is just pretending
If we pretend long enough
Never giving up
It just might be who we are”
What is wrong with that approach to any day of the year? We can’t have enough kindness. That’s from the song Promises To Keep. The show is filled with meaningful lyrics and a tremendous story told over the first half of the show. Every single show includes a thank you to our military from Chris Caffery and the band. They really don’t miss very much. For me it’s a run-on celebration of Christmas, goodwill, and essentially how most of us would like to see everyone approach their every day.
If you read my Sunday Series – Amazing Grace you know that my route to this very moment has taken me through some dark, difficult times. God’s Amazing Grace did get me here, and the musical message as delivered by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has kept me company through many times and places. I think it’s not a coincidence that TSO and I came together when we did. I know for some this may seem over dramatized or somehow unreal. I can tell you that God’s grace is real and I have been the undeserving recipient so many more times than I could ever count, and this band with their story, their music, their message, have been a huge part of my travels through adulthood. Thank God. Summertime, Christmas time, any time, I can be found listening to TSO and losing myself in the message.
Sunday night was no different. Sitting beside my eleven year old and nineteen year old sons, lost in the crowd on the floor, I sat with tears in my eyes off and on throughout the show. As you will learn about me throughout the Christmas season, this time of year, the songs, the message, the emotions, the time to enjoy loved ones, the music, it all means so much to me. It’s an emotional tie that is ingrained within me. I guess I find it hard to put it all into words. That’s why I value, so much, those who can. Go to TSO’s website and look at the lyrics and stories on their Christmas albums. It’s all right there.
I have escaped with TSO in my CD player while I drove 4 hours in tears all the way back from Orono, Maine. I have sat in the snow near the Canadian border in Pittsburg, NH and played TSO with my windows rolled down while moose looked at me like I was truly nuts. I have parked at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean while a late summer storm batters the shore and lost myself in the TSO Christmas albums. I have sat for hours on the shore of any one of the Connecticut Lakes in NH and written out the words, or even my own versions of poems from the lyrics of TSO songs. I have enjoyed the Christmas albums, one after another, while sitting next to my beautifully, lit, Christmas tree on more than one occasion. I have survived the darkest hours of the darkest nights in my life and let TSO take me to the place I couldn’t yet get to myself.
So each year this escape seems to mean even more to me. Maybe because escapes are harder to come by. Maybe because the principles, the values, the overall message of the Christmas story gets lost a little more each year in the world we live in, so it means more to have it near to me. My nineteen year old son, a sophomore at Dartmouth College, who has a lot of better things to do (I am sure), than hang out with dad, came home for 24 hours, primarily to take in the TSO show. Thank you, I am a fortunate dad, a very fortunate man.
For three hours on Sunday, life slowed down, and it’s meaning again revealed itself in the form of a Christmas concert performed by TSO. I was there. I enjoyed the seconds, beside my two sons, smiling as the message was heard by the thousands in attendance. I shed tears as Music Box Blues was performed, and it took me back to my childhood, constantly sitting by the window, lit by a candle, watching for snow and listening to Christmas music on the phonograph. I had to wipe my eyes again as Old City Bar was performed; the story of one who would be home on Christmas Eve if one could be. There were too many Christmas Eve’s when I wasn’t home and I would listen to this song over and over, as to punish myself I guess.
Every year, in a sold out arena, I escape for a few moments when I just look around and take in the sound, while singing the words of all the songs to myself, and just let it carry me away. It’s special every time. It’s one of my ways to escape. I already can’t wait for next year and another chance to escape with TSO.