Another Christmas Carol — A New Book by Daniel Carter
The Book Synopsis
One of my editors provided this synopsis:
In this true story, author Daniel Carter faces constant opposition as he works to realize his dream of becoming a professional musician. A childhood accident left him with 9.5 fingers, but he didn't let that stop him from composing. In college, although his parents want him to major in something more practical than music, they show their support by giving him the family piano. But his college professors dismiss his composition and performance skills and scoff at his dream. Finances become so tight that to pay his tuition, he decides he must do the unthinkable and sell his piano. Self-doubt and academic probation continue to plague him. Then on a cold snowy December night, his spirit re-ignites with an unexpected gift.
In "Another Christmas Carol", Daniel Carter shares his experiences of the true meaning of Christmas—and of love—and the power of hope. This heartwarming story of brotherly love and the determination to keep a dream alive is sure to become a treasured favorite.
A Preview of the Book Contents
Our family piano, made in 1927, was already an old clunker by the time we got it in 1967. It was left behind by the landlord in a house that my family rented. Dad bought it when we moved. He probably suspected that it would drive him nuts to hear an 11-year-old try to write music and learn scales, but he actually did it to please both Mom and me. His suspicion was verified quickly. The old clunker and I took to each other as if we were long-time friends.
Somehow it seemed fine that such an instrument with a lovely tone and rich sound had a less than perfect exterior since my own was also slightly damaged (part of my right index finger was cut off in an accident). Our piano was dusted and cleaned regularly, but there wasn’t ever enough in the family budget to tune it...
The Infamous Right Index Finger Incident
...Mom and Dad went into business with my grandparents, owning and operating Carter Packing Company, a meat processing plant. Dad had a great slogan: “We skin beef, not customers.”
One day, Mom was working at the meat grinder, grinding up fat. Each time she turned off the grinder, I would poke my right index finger in the front plate where the ground-up fat came out and clean each hole. Tim was a good little copycat and followed my example. That is, until Mom caught on and exclaimed, “Oh! Don't do that! You'll get your fingers cut off!!” Of course I thought I was careful enough that her warning didn’t immediately apply to me. After all, I was watching Tim, as a good big brother should. So the challenge was to not let her actually see what I was doing.
She flipped the switch without checking this one time, and I'll be darned if I didn't have the strangest feeling come over me. I looked at Tim, he looked at me, and we looked down—and it was just as Mom said. How odd that mother simply knew such things and I didn’t.
After a trip to the Finger Repair Spa, the facts as they occurred were these: Two young boys, both under the age of five, had a portion of their right index fingers cut off at the same time because they didn’t listen to their mother.
But having a shortened forefinger didn’t deter me the slightest from making noise at any accessible keyboard instrument...
I Inherited the Old Clunker
During my college years, I inherited the family piano. Discovering quickly that it wouldn't fit in my basement apartment, we moved it to my friend, Jennifer’s place...
...Still, I didn’t think it would be too long before I would move into a place that would have room enough for “Ben.” That was the name Jennifer gave it.
“I think this piano sounds like a ‘Ben’ piano,” she announced.
I was rarely able to go to her place and play it because of school and work, and, of course, the necessity of not driving her roommates nuts.
One day Jennifer interrupted my playing with, “Make Ben play ‘The Bathtub Song’ for me.”
“It’s that song you wrote the last time you were here. I was in the bathtub upstairs when you were playing it,” she assured, trying to jog my memory.
Another time, when I was there, she decided, “Ben needs a last name. It can’t be ‘Carter.’”
“I know what it is,” I answered with a smirk.
“What?” she asked as she smiled, knowing I was up to something.
“Tuned,” I chuckled, “Get it? Ben Tuned?”
I Sold My Inheritance to Pay Tuition
During college, I worked at a small grocery store and made enough to live on, but not enough for tuition, too. Finally, I concluded that I could afford to go to school spring and summer terms if I budgeted carefully, but when unexpected expenses came, both terms passed without money for tuition. I decided that the only thing I could do to get into school again was to sell the piano. After talking it over with my friend, Jennifer, she offered to buy it. Included in our agreement was her offer that when I was ready to buy it back, I could do so for the same price she paid for it. Trying to tell myself it wouldn’t be long before I would buy it back didn’t help much to soothe my regret. Summer months came and went, and fall semester was already in progress with no apparent way for me to buy back my piano.
Not Enough Fingers, Not Enough Lessons
An ongoing issue of whether or not I would even be allowed to declare music composition as my major became apparent. Resistance came from piano faculty. I spoke with the Chairman of Piano Studies, asking him to give me a chance. He questioned how I could declare piano as my major instrument when my skills were so poor.
“You don’t even have a full set of fingers!” he mocked, wiggling all ten of his in front of me.
“But my focus is composition,” I countered defensively.
“Every composer who graduates this university will meet all performance requirements for their declared instrument,” he recited, as if he and God struck the deal long before.
“What have you composed that I would know?” he jabbed condescendingly.
I stammered until he interrupted. “Can you play any other instruments, or can you sing?” he questioned doubtfully.
“Not really,” I muttered, having already sunk up to my ears in discouragement...
A Pickup Truck Waited Outside As I Studied
The door opened, and there stood the three of us. Two of us had smiles from ear to ear, but one of us did not.
“What’s up?” I demanded, too consumed by frustration to realize what was going on…
…the alarms instantly shut off and new racing thoughts flew around as my eyes widened with realization of how very wrong I was. I ran in, sat down, and played “Joy to the World,” and then I played another Christmas carol, and then another. As we wheeled the piano to the door, I played the "Hallelujah!" chorus.
“Okay, Mozart," Tim bellowed, "lift!”
“Handel!” I corrected.
“Huh?!” he asked, confused.
“Handel wrote the ‘Hallelujah!’ chorus!”
Tim rolled his eyes and grunted, “LIFT!”
What Does Christmas Mean?
A Broader View of Love
I learned it wasn’t up to anyone else to determine whether or not I succeeded. It was just up to me...
…On Christmas Eve that year, I composed a song called “What Does Christmas Mean?” and gave copies of it as Christmas gifts. Never again would I use the excuse that I had no money for gifts after being given so rich a gift, twice…
My daughter and son managed to keep all of their fingers despite my stories that five-year-olds in our family were “initiated” just as Uncle Tim and I were. There are twenty-nine-and-a-half fingers between my children and me. Occasionally all of those fingers have played old Ben at the same time. Each of these additional memories make playing “Joy to the World” just as sweet as when Tim gave me back old Ben—just as heartfelt as playing “Hallelujah!” that icy night. These are the memories that make me want to play another Christmas carol and then another.
Download sheet music "What Does Christmas Mean"?
"Another Christmas Carol" is listed at goodreads.com
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More by this Author
The Story of the Hymn, "As Now We Take the Sacrament" by Daniel Carter. Seven different versions of the hymn were rejected from the LDS Hymnbook, but finally the seventh was accepted.
Music video of beloved Christmas song by Daniel Carter and Sherri Otteson Bird. Story of how the song came to be. Sheet music available. Links included.
Diagrams and easy to follow text that will help musicians learn to read music whether as a singer or instrumentalist.