Mem­o­ries of Christ­mas con­certs

Par­ents, sib­lings, grand­par­ents, friends and neigh­bours ap­plauded the young en­ter­tain­ers

Cape Breton Post - - GLACE BAY/NEW WATERFORD & AREA - Ken MacDon­ald is a re­tired school teacher and ad­min­is­tra­tor, and a com­mu­nity vol­un­teer. His fam­ily can be traced back seven gen­er­a­tions in Port Morien, where he has lived al­most all his life. He can be reached at morien­[email protected]

My mother al­ways trea­sured fam­ily me­men­tos.

She kept in­di­vid­ual scrap­books for my two broth­ers and me that in­clude re­port cards, news­pa­per clip­pings, birthday cards, and nu­mer­ous other items of in­ter­est from our for­ma­tive years.

A few weeks back, I was flip­ping through one of them, and a news­pa­per clip­ping about the 1959 Gowrie school con­cert caught my eye. It was my pri­mary year and I was men­tioned as a par­tic­i­pant. Next to the clip­ping I found my ac­tual recita­tion, hand­writ­ten by my pri­mary teacher Margie Camp­bell.

Lit­tle did I know that when I stood on that stage in 1959 to re­cite “So It Is” about Santa try­ing to squeeze down a chim­ney, it would be the first of prob­a­bly 50 or more Christ­mas con­certs and pageants that I would at­tend as a stu­dent, a par­ent or a teacher.

One Christ­mas, there were five school and church con­certs that in­volved some­one from our own fam­ily.

Christ­mas con­certs in small schools like Gowrie or Al­bert Bridge when I was prin­ci­pal, were com­mu­nity events. Par­ents, sib­lings, grand­par­ents, friends and neigh­bours at­tended to ap­plaud per­for­mances of the young en­ter­tain­ers.

When I taught at Mira Road school, space in the gym was lim­ited, so each stu­dent was al­lot­ted a cer­tain num­ber of tick­ets. The af­ter­noon re­hearsal was al­ways well at­tended. One teacher jok­ingly re­marked that there were ticket scalpers out­side the school on the night of the con­cert.

When I was teach­ing, con­cert prepa­ra­tion in el­e­men­tary schools started as early as Oc­to­ber, but re­ally picked up af­ter Re­mem­brance Day. By the week be­fore, the school was con­sumed by con­cert prepa­ra­tions. Mu­sic teach­ers prac­tised on their sched­uled days, with class­room teach­ers and some­times par­ents faith­fully re­hears­ing with the chil­dren each day lead­ing up to the con­cert.

Most Christ­mas con­certs fol­lowed the same for­mat with each class con­tribut­ing group or in­di­vid­ual songs or verses, or maybe a skit. The Grade Pri­mary class usu­ally stole the show. Dressed in their finest, there al­ways seemed to be one young­ster wav­ing or talk­ing to par­ents in the au­di­ence from the stage or sing­ing at the top of his or her lungs, usu­ally off key, drown­ing out the best vo­cal ef­forts of class­mates. Then there was al­ways one (who al­ways seemed to be in the front row) proudly pick­ing his nose in full view of fam­ily and friends.

De­spite ini­tial trep­i­da­tion, the kids al­ways came through. One of my Grade 6 classes played “Jin­gle Bells” by blow­ing into pop bot­tles filled with vary­ing amounts of wa­ter to pro­duce dif­fer­ent mu­si­cal notes. An­other year, as a class, we wrote our own lyrics for the “Twelve Days of Christ­mas.”

One of the big­ger boys good na­turedly vol­un­teered to squeeze into a tiny Grade Pri­mary desk on cen­tre stage, in front of the class, fac­ing the au­di­ence and fin­ish­ing off each verse by sing­ing, “... and a desk that doesn’t fit me.”

There were glitches. One year, the class­room mu­sic teacher told me he wouldn’t be do­ing the con­cert be­cause he was too busy, luck­ily for me, the band teacher came to my res­cue and stepped for­ward to help.

My good friend Irene La­hey, who taught el­e­men­tary school for more than 45 years at Cat­alone and River­side schools, re­mem­bers the time the power went out dur­ing a con­cert. The hall was a to­tal black­out. One man saved the day by light­ing his cig­a­rette lighter. An­other par­ent went home to get a Cole­man lan­tern, and the con­cert fin­ished by lamp light. An­other time, one storm af­ter an­other led to the per­ma­nent can­cel­la­tion of the con­cert be­fore Christ­mas.

It was 10 years ago this month that I at­tended my last Christ­mas con­cert at River­side school, and I vowed that I had enough and I would never at­tend an­other. I was adamant.

Then along came the grand­chil­dren. Oh well, I guess a few more in the fu­ture wouldn’t hurt. I might even save their recita­tions.

I hope that you all have a very Merry Christ­mas, and should you at­tend a Christ­mas con­cert, may the pint-size per­form­ers get you in the Christ­mas spirit.

The Grade 2 class per­forms at the Gowrie school Christ­mas con­cert in 1986, the last con­cert held in the build­ing. At Gowrie, a slid­ing door opened up two class­rooms to pro­vide space for pub­lic seat­ing. CON­TRIB­UTED

Ken MacDon­ald Port Morien

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