Ahhhh…the Christmas Season…or…for you overstressed politically correct weirdos…the “Holiday Season” is well and truly here.
The stores are full of stressed out shoppers, worn out customer service representatives, confused looking middle aged guys and every charity representative with a bucket and a cause standing in the cold hoping to call upon our “seasonal generosity” and throw them a buck or two on our way in to the store.
I occasionally do that, but usually have to get it back when I leave after the usual frivilous, silly, foolish, desperate, wasteful, overspending in the store.
Funny how they are so cheerful when you throw a dollar in, but not-so-much friendly when you take it back.
Apparently not everyone gets the whole “joy of giving” thing.
Haunted For Life
But that is not what this post is about. Nope. Tonight I want to tell you about something that has haunted me for life…life…all my life.
Christmas Concert Extravaganza
Years ago, in a land not so far away, I was a wee tyke in a grade two elementary school Christmas Concert extravaganza. Well, it was a school concert.
I cannot recall the exact Christmas song my class was singing, but I can recall all the other details oh so well.
There we were, circa 1967, the entire grade two elementary school class lined up on that stairway-podium-thingy so popular in grade school. You know what I mean, the benches that allowed the shorter kids to be in front, less shorter kids in the middle etc…etc…used for the annual class photo and the Christmas Concert.
I was always kind of middle of the road student. In fact, the description,”exemplary student” was not something anyone associated with my report cards would recall seeing. But that really has nothing to do with my issue. So let’s get back to that shall we….
Christmas Concert Rehearsal
So there we are, everyone all lined up, rehearsing the lovely Christmas tune we were going to sing in the concert. I was so proud, belting out the words to Little Drummer Boy or Rudolph or whatever it was we were singing. Standing there in the middle row, my striped wool sweater looking good, smiling like I had the world by the tail.
Dear Little Old Lady Teacher
The teacher, a dear little old lady, perhaps 35 years old, kept stopping us in mid song, and telling us to start over. It was getting annoying. But she would stop us, cock her head in that peculiar fashion of music teachers, listening for a certain note, octave, scale, chord, treble cleff or whatever the hell it is that music teachers hear when they cock their head.
She tapped on the little thingy she had the music on, with the little thingy she was using for a baton, I think it was a ruler, but it might have been a leather strap, (they went in for leather straps in the sixties – yeah they did)
Obviously there was a problem. I figured it was Michael, he was always in trouble for something, or maybe Paul, the short kid, he was kind of annoying.
The old battle-axe…I mean music teacher, then tried something different. Music teachers are cagey…She had the bottom row sing the first verse of the song. All seemed good, she even smiled at Michael. Then she had the middle row sing the next verse. My row…the middle row…
Pour It On
I knew this was important so I really poured on my musical ability, showing her I could hit notes others could only dream of…this was before the days of Celine Deon.
Suddenly she slapped the music stand with the baton, stopping us in mid high note…I stopped, looked over at Paul. He looked guilty…but when I looked back, she was looking at me….uh-oh….
“Robert” she said, in that non-musical way that music teachers have, “Robert” she said it again, like my name was the chorus to a song. I liked that idea.
“Robert…dear…” she said, “I think we are going to try something a little different.”
“Uh-oh” When a teacher tells you that you are going to try “something different” that cannot be good. Well it might be good if you were like 35 and she was like 35 but I am digressing….
Don Messer’s Jubilee and The Tommy Hunter Show
I just looked back at her, probably smiling my sweetest little boy smile. I was happy, finally, someone had recognized my vocal ability. Finally, I was going to be a star, maybe get to go on The Don Messer Jubliee television show!! (If you have to ask what that was, forget it) Maybe even The Tommy Hunter Show. In my 7 year old mind I immediately saw Tommy and I, wearing our best country and western leisure suits, singing “I Am A Travelling Man” on his show Friday night on CBC television. I could probably quit school.
“Robert!!” This time she was a little more insistent. Kind of brought me around.
She came over to me with a piece of paper and handed it to me. Wow, things move fast in the music biz in the nineteen-sixties, I was getting a contract !!!
Naw. Not quite. Instead she had this nice little verse, something precious, something that I knew was not part of the song. Nope…not part of the song.
“Robert, dear.” (There was that dear stuff again) “How about you read this part, in the middle of the song, I will stop the class from singing and signal you when it’s time for you to read it.” She pointed to the four lines she wanted me to read.
Shepherds and Wiseguys
I looked at the words. Something about “mangers” “shepherds” and “wise-guys” nothing I couldn’t handle.
“OK Mrs Smith” I replied dutifully, like all Grade Two kiddies in the nineteen-sixties, except for Paul and Michael, I was dutiful.
Mrs Smith tapped the music stand thingy with the baton again, she raised her arms to lead us off. We started singing, rehearsing the song again. I clutched the paper in my hands, and started singing with the rest of the class.
Suddenly she tapped that damm baton again, and held up her hand saying, “Stop, stop, Stopppppp!!!!”
We all stopped, except Paul, I think he kept humming, but he was like that.
Mrs Smith came a little closer to me. “Robert, it would be better if you saved your voice for reading the words, instead of singing. You have a nice clear voice, good for reading, we don’t want to tire it out.”
I smiled, (I know it was 40 odd years ago, but I distinctly remember smiling) she continued…
“When the rest of the class stops singing, you just speak up nice and loud and say those words in a nice loud voice, just like you are talking to someone in the back of the auditorium.”
And that….dear reader…has scarred me for life. It was the sixties. I could have been a rock star, at the very least a folk singer, but oh no, not after that. There wasn’t much demand for a tone deaf rock star who reads the words to songs.
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