:: adeste fideles ::

One of my favourite parts of Christmas in Australia is Carols By Candlelight. To be specific, Sydney’s Carols In The Domain. I have never been able to attend the event, but I’ve watched it on TV every December for as long as I can remember. In 2012 the event celebrated thirty years, and I saw no better way to commemorate this anniversary than with a fic. It takes place roughly nine years after the end of The Basement Tapes.


A voice from the doorway of the hotel room’s poky little bathroom caused Taylor to pause in doing up his tie. He looked back over his shoulder to see Miki leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed over her chest and one eyebrow raised. She was still dressed in the T-shirt and shorts she had worn for most of the day, dark blonde hair halfway out of its ponytail. “Miki, why aren’t you changed yet?” he asked as he returned to tying the dark blue silk into something resembling a knot.

“It’s not like we’re going to midnight Mass, Dad,” Miki said, her tone close to complete exasperation. “I don’t need to get all dolled up.”

“And what gives you that impression, exactly?” Taylor asked without looking away from the mirror. Satisfied his tie was knotted neatly, he turned to the shower rail over the bathtub and took his suit jacket down from its coat hanger.

“Aside from it not being Christmas Eve and the three of us not being Catholic?”

“Right, like not being Catholic has ever stopped us before now.” He eyed Miki briefly. “Besides, I thought you were coming onstage with me tonight?”

“Well, yeah…” Miki sighed. “Okay, Dad. I’ll get changed. But I’m not wearing those stupid heels.”

“Never said you had to. Just make sure whatever shoes you end up wearing are halfway presentable.”

“Jesus Dad, you’re worse than Audrey sometimes,” Miki said with a roll of her eyes. “Are you sure you’re a bloke?”

Taylor’s sole response was to give Miki a half-hearted swat to the back of her head as she exited the bathroom, leaving Taylor to finish getting ready.

He had just finished running a comb through his still-damp hair when a pair of slender hands covered his eyes. “Guess who?” a very familiar voice asked.

“Well you can’t be my wife, last I looked she was downstairs in the hotel bar getting absolutely hammered,” Taylor hedged, his tone joking. “My mistress, then?”

“Very funny, Jordan,” the voice said, sounding sarcastic, and the hands lowered. He turned around to see Audrey standing behind him, hands now planted on her hips and one dark eyebrow raised toward her hairline. “Since when do you have the time for a mistress?”

“I’m joking, Aud,” Taylor assured her, half a second before leaning down to kiss her. “Good God you are gorgeous. How the hell did I get so lucky?”

Audrey grinned before pirouetting on her tiptoes, allowing the lace hem of her long dark blue dress to flare out around her ankles. “I think we can blame that old car of mine for that,” she said lightly. “And you don’t look so bad yourself. You can definitely scrub up nicely when you want to.”

“Thanks, Aud.” He shook back the left sleeve of his jacket and glanced at his watch. “We should probably get going. They’ll be sending out a search party before long otherwise.”

Miki was seated on one of the two beds in the hotel room, tapping away at the screen of her mobile phone. She was dressed in what Taylor recognised as her Year 10 Formal dress – not that he knew a lot about teenage girls’ fashion, but according to both Audrey and Miki said Formal dress was dark purple chiffon and had dark purple satin roses sewn together to form a left shoulder strap. Her right shoulder was left bare.

“Happy now, Dad?” she asked cheekily.

“Watch the mouth, Michaela,” Taylor scolded. “And yes, that’s much better.”

“I don’t see why I had to get dressed up anyway,” Miki said as she slipped her phone into her handbag. “You’ve worn worse onstage than what I was wearing before.”

“You’ll be on television, Miki,” Audrey explained. “We watch it at home every year, remember? The only difference is that this year, you and your dad will be onstage and I’ll be watching from the audience.”

“Oh shite, I forgot about that,” Miki groaned. “Dad you are evil.”

“Well, you’re the one who’s always wanting to perform with me,” Taylor reminded her.

“First and last time, I can tell you that much right now,” Miki said, and she stood up. “Did you want me to bring my guitar with me?”

“You remember that next time you want to pester me about coming onstage. And you may as well bring it, I left mine at home.”

“Twit,” Miki said. She crouched down and reached beneath her bed, drawing her guitar case out into the open. “So how are we getting there?”

“We’ll walk,” Audrey replied. “It won’t take us long. Will said he’d save me a spot on the grass with his lot, but the carpark will be packed so there’s no point in driving.” She then poked Taylor in the ribs. “And it’ll do your dad some good to get a bit of exercise, anyway.”

“Oh that’s nice,” Taylor said mock-sourly.

“Just looking out for your wellbeing, love,” Audrey said airily as she led the way out of the hotel room into the corridor.

Their arrival at The Domain made it clear that the last thirty-six years had not done anything to diminish the Carols’ popularity. If anything, their popularity with the general population of Sydney had only increased year by year. The area in front of the stage was packed with people, with nary a patch of bare grass to be seen. Onstage the pre-show entertainment looked to be close to winding down, which Taylor took as his cue to head backstage and join the evening’s other performers.

“I might go and hunt down Will and Claire,” Audrey said, evidently taking her own cue from the stage. “Do you have any idea of when you’ll be going onstage?”

“Sometime between nine o’clock and half past,” Taylor replied. “I’ll send you a text when I know the exact time.”

“Okay.” The two of them embraced quickly, and Audrey was soon turning her attention to Miki. “I’m very proud of you, Miki – I know things haven’t exactly been easy for you. I know your dad is too.”

“Thanks, Audrey,” Miki said, her voice quiet. Audrey could easily tell that the sixteen-year-old was nervous. Miki’s voice held an undercurrent of anxiety, the same one that Audrey had heard in Taylor’s own voice right before his first performance for more people than could fit into the bar at Cooney’s Tavern – a performance seven years in the past. Like father, like daughter, Audrey thought, wanting to laugh, but she tamped it down. Instead she smoothed down Miki’s hair and looked into her stepdaughter’s always-solemn grey eyes.

“I know you’re nervous,” Audrey said. “Your dad was nervous too right before his first-ever concert. But you know what, though? That’s completely normal. It’s very rare for someone not to be nervous before they perform for the very first time, especially when it’s in front of so many people.”

“But what if I forget the words?” Miki asked.

“You won’t. You have your dad’s good memory, remember?” She tapped Miki’s head with a fingernail as if to get her point across. “But if you do forget, they have a big screen out in the audience facing the stage that has the words on it.”

“Like an autocue?”

“Just like an autocue,” Audrey confirmed, before drawing Miki close. “You go and show Sydney what you’re made of.”

“Okay.” Miki finally managed a smile before heading off with Taylor to join the event’s other performers. Audrey watched them go for a short while, then started to make her way through the gathered crowd in search of her brother and his family.

There were really only three words to describe backstage at The Domain – barely controlled chaos. Miki’s hand tightened on Taylor’s as the two of them weaved their way through the morass of people, nearly all of them dressed to the nines. As much as she knew she shouldn’t, Miki had the long skirt of her dress partly bunched up in her free hand so that nobody could inadvertently step on it. She had slung her guitar by its strap over a shoulder.

“Dad, I really don’t like this,” she said quietly. “There’s too many people here.”

Taylor didn’t say a word until they were well across the other side of what was essentially a massive green room. “I know, Miki,” he said. “And I can tell you that I felt exactly the same way the first year I did this.” He led Miki across to a comfortable-looking lounge. “Did you remember to bring your medication with you?” he asked once the two of them were seated, Miki’s guitar propped up next to her knees.

Miki nodded and unzipped her handbag, taking out the cardboard packet of anti-anxiety medication she always carried with her. Those little pale yellow round tablets had saved her sanity on many an occasion. She popped one of the tablets out into her hand and tossed it into her mouth, swallowing it with a mouthful of water.

Right as Miki put her medication back in her handbag, the Carols’ musical director came up with her clipboard and pen in hand. “Taylor Hanson, correct?” she asked.

“That’s me,” Taylor confirmed. “My daughter Michaela will be performing with me tonight.”

“No worries,” the musical director said cheerfully. “Fantastic to meet you, Michaela. I’d just like to confirm what the two of you will be performing, and I’ll leave you be until it’s time for you to go onstage.”

Happy Christmas (War Is Over),” Taylor replied.

“Great.” She gave Taylor and Miki a bright smile. “You’re scheduled to perform at nine-fifteen. If that changes you’ll be the first to know. Good luck tonight.”

“Thanks,” Taylor said with a smile of his own.

The time between the start of the Carols and the moment that Taylor and Miki were scheduled to take the stage almost seemed to fly past. The other performers who made up that year’s Carols cast were, as usual, a combination of Carols veterans and mainstays – Marina Prior, Georgie Parker and Jay Laga’aia to name just a few – the casts of theatre and musical productions, and winning contestants from that year’s productions of The X-Factor and The Voice. Performers flowed in and out of the green room in what seemed to be a constant stream of people, and were Taylor not used it it by that point the constant movement and the sheer level of noise would have given him the mother of all migraines.

At ten past nine, Taylor led Miki over to the curtained-off doorway that led onstage. “Dad?” Miki asked quietly, her voice barely audible over the noise backstage.


“What was it like the first year you did this?”

“Terrifying,” Taylor replied after a little bit of thought. “Watching it on TV is nothing compared to actually performing onstage, especially when it’s in front of as many people that are here tonight. I was shaking when I came offstage.” He turned Miki to face him and placed his hands on her shoulders. “I know you’re scared right now, but don’t forget that I’ll be right beside you the whole time.” He gave her a smile. “I’m very proud of you, Miki.”

Miki managed a small smile. “Thanks, Dad.”

The cheering and applause as the two of them walked out onstage a few minutes later was almost deafening. The sun had set by this time, and the clear night sky overhead was full of stars – Taylor could easily spot the Southern Cross over the Cahill Expressway, even though the lights of Sydney were blazing. Miki’s hand tensed in his, and he gave it a reassuring squeeze before leading her over to the two microphones set out at the front of the stage. The two of them took a few moments to allow the noise from the crowd to die down a bit, then Miki shifted her guitar around from her back so that she could play the opening chords of their chosen song. As they had agreed, Taylor started the song off.

“So this is Christmas…and what have you done…another year over…and a new one just begun…and so this is Christmas…I hope you have fun…the near and the dear one…the old and the young…

“A very Merry Christmas…and a happy New Year…let’s hope it’s a good one…without any fear…”

Beside him, Taylor could hear Miki draw in a deep breath before she began to sing, raising her voice to the heavens.

“And so this is Christmas…for weak and for strong…for rich and the poor ones…the world is so wrong…and so happy Christmas…for black and for white…for yellow and red ones…let’s stop all the fight…

“A very Merry Christmas…and a happy New Year…let’s hope it’s a good one…without any fear…”

Taylor managed to catch Miki’s eye for just long enough to give her a reassuring smile, one his daughter returned, before the two of them sang the rest of the song together.

“And so this is Christmas…and what have we done…another year over…a new one just begun…and so happy Christmas…we hope you have fun…the near and the dear one…the old and the young…

“A very Merry Christmas…and a happy New Year…let’s hope it’s a good one…without any fear…

“War is over, if you want it…war is over now…”

The crowd erupted in cheers and applause at the conclusion of the song. Taylor sketched a bow, smiling the whole while, and out of the corner of his eye he could see Miki dipping a curtsey.

“Thank you Sydney!” Taylor said into his microphone. “Merry Christmas!



Title credit:

Adeste Fideles - John Francis Wade

Lyric credit:

Happy Christmas (War Is Over) - John Lennon