Writer’s Block: The Christ­mas Con­cert

Ex­cite­ment and a feel­ing of good cheer would fill the air on the night of the big show

Our Canada - - Contents - By Norma Mcphee, Kitch­ener

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

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