Writer’s Block: The Christmas Concert
Excitement and a feeling of good cheer would fill the air on the night of the big show
This annual event was a time of warmth, good cheer and community spirit.
Every year around the first week in December, Mrs. Crockett would get out her book of plays. It was a small, old book with a cloth cover. From here she would pick the short skits we would perform for our Christmas concert, and then the practicing and excitement would begin. In the two- room schoolhouse I attended, Mrs. Crockett taught Grades 5 through 8, while Mrs. Chaisson taught the other half of the school— Grades 1 through 4. Each teacher was responsible for getting her students ready for the concert. The particular year that stands out in my mind was when I was in Grade 6.
The concert was held on “our” side of the school. The platform at the front of the classroom that held Mrs. Crockett’s desk became our stage, from where we would entertain our families with short comedic plays as well as music.
Mrs. Crockett made sure to include all the classes in the concert; everyone had a part to play, whether in a group or alone. She chose skits that were ten to 15 minutes in length, and every grade had a different one to act out.
Along with the skits, the younger students from Mrs. Chaisson’s class sang Christmas carols or recited short, funny Christmas poems. The youngest students were always a favourite to watch as there was sure to be a laugh or two when a line in a poem was forgotten, or a song sung out of tune.
We were fortunate that in our small community there was a large musical family who attended our school. There was a member of this talented Perry family in just about every grade. They all played a musical instrument; in fact, some could play more than one. In between the skits, poems and carols, these brothers and sisters would have that old school house shaking with fiddling, step-dancing and singing. We wouldn’t have had such memorable concerts without them, as I can’t recall another family in the area with that kind of talent.
We’d all practice during the few weeks leading up to Christmas. Each day, we’d work hard to finish our lessons early and then spend the rest of the school day learning our parts. The big night would finally arrive, usually a few nights before Christmas, after which school would be finished for the rest of the season.
Recently, a childhood friend and I were talking about the concerts and she mentioned remembering the old bed sheets used for curtains, which we stood behind on the stage waiting for our cue to come out. If they were bed sheets, I couldn’t recall, but I believed they were real stage curtains! Funny how we remember what we want to.
All the parents would start arriving, some with babes in arms, and the seats in that old schoolhouse would quickly fill up—standing room only. The excitement would build and, finally, we would all take our turn coming on stage to the sound of the audience clapping as we were introduced. As there weren’t any microphones, a hushed silence would follow so the audience could hear us. Even the little preschool children were quiet. As one skit would end, Mrs. Crockett and Mrs. Chaisson would have the next performers, who were waiting in the corner behind those curtains, ready for their grand entrance.
In my mind’s eye, I can still look out on that packed schoolhouse and see my mother sitting with some of the other moms, chatting and laughing, while my father stood along the back wall with all the other dads, close to the door so they could slip outside to have a little swig of Christmas cheer—but not while their kids were on stage; they couldn’t miss that!
When all the singing, dancing, poems and acting were over, we’d hear “Ho, Ho, Ho” coming from the back of the school. In would come Santa with a huge bag of presents on his back, with gifts for the students and treat bags for all the children, school age or not. As one of the older kids, I knew by then that there wasn’t a Santa Claus, yet I never knew who played Santa, as we weren’t missing any dads or big brothers. I stood around the stage with all the other kids, while Santa passed out the gifts. My gift that year was the novel Little Women. It was signed by Mrs. Crockett with the year, and a note wishing me a Merry Christmas—i still have that book.
After every child had received a gift and Santa had made his getaway, the concert was over and people began pouring out of the little school, mothers with babies asleep on their shoulders, and fathers holding little ones by the hand. There would be hand shaking and wishes of Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, all the way out the door. As we walked home, I’d glance back at that old school, still all lit up, not just with lights but with Christmas spirit.
Today, when I look back on that old schoolhouse, just like the old pot-belly stove that warmed it, the memories made during those Christmas concerts warm my heart. n