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Concerts are always a bright point of Christmas season

Back at the Ranch with Vicki Brooker

It was a week filled with concerts… Elk Point Community Choir on Friday, Heinsburg Community School and Jack and Jill Playschool on Tuesday and the Elk Point Elementary concert on Wednesday, all leaving their spectators humming old familiar Christmas songs and excited for the big day ahead.

For those of us with many, many concerts to look back on, they also stirred up some memories of years long past.

The talented young École du Sommet musicians reminded me of the years when two of our children were part of their school bands and were the musical accompaniment at their concerts, a big change from their earlier on-stage performances as a Ukrainian dancer and as one of a family of mice determined to outwit Pete the Cat. I may not have enjoyed every moment of their musical practicing at home, but to have them up on stage as part of a band definitely filled me with pride.

There seems to be a massive trend toward elf-dom this Christmas, because both school concerts had stages full of want-to-be elves, and one of them showing clearly that this is noting new, as their time machine took them back more than a century to visit the elves of the 1890s. I don’t recall any elves in the concerts when I went to school, but I’m quite sure that I was once tasked with creating an elf costume for one of my children.

What impressed me most in both of those concerts was the ingenuity to do something different. At Heinsburg, it was the Polar Express story, the herd of hippopotamus-lovers and the wonderful inclusion of First Nations flavour with Kokum getting run over by a reindeer and real live drummer boys accompanying the traditional song of the season as it was sung in Cree. At Elk Point Elementary, an original play was wound around songs that fit right in, and everyone working together to make sure the old ‘show must go on’ tradition continued, even though the play’s author was ill and unable to lead the students through the process. Good job, everyone!

The Playschool concert was the only one that featured a visit from Santa, and we all know how busy that guy is at this time of year, when he should be home resting up for his busiest night of the year. I was also very impressed by teacher Tammy Klatt’s imagination in crafting personalized gifts for every student to treasure. She just keeps coming up with great new ideas every year!

It seems to me that concerts have definitely changed since my childhood. I remember going to a one-room school concert when I was very young, and it was mostly singing. The concerts I was in as a junior high and Grade 10 student had some updates in music – I remember a trio of cousins singing the then brand-new Chipmunks song: “Christmas, Christmas time is here, Time for toys and time for cheer!: -  and one of my classmates and her sister singing “Silver Bells”, and the year I was an old Irish grandmother in a play called “Our Dream House” where I looked not that much different than I do now… although mow fortunately without the sensible shoes and cotton housedress.

Over the years I’ve seen and heard a variety of versions of old favourite concert plays from “Belling the Cat” to the Christmas story itself, the old songs and carols sung by generations of students, and watched new trends hit the stage as the classics, both musical and performance wise, evolved. When I was a pre-teen, I’d never even heard of a sasquatch or the abominable snowman, but two generations, a combination of the two was on the school stage, with one of our grandsons inside the bulky fur costume. School concerts, from my earliest years until most recently, involved a talented teacher on the piano keyboard, often accompanied by everything from an xylophone to a triangle, or students tooting away on recorders.  The only recorder I heard this year was at the Interfaith Cantata, and if its player was once one of those students, he’s come a long, long way.

Congratulations to all on great and memorable performances!

About the Author: Vicki Brooker

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