For weeks we practised and memorized and rehearsed. Those old concerts were quite varied in scope. Usually there was at least one short play. There would be a couple of long recitations. I would get roped into one of these as I had a terrific memory back then; I wish I could say the same now. Usually there would be a pantomime, and of course, the drill. The drill consisted of a choreographed set of movements by lines of boys dressed in white shirts and black pants and girls wearing dresses made of crepe paper, accompanied by wands with silver or gold foil- wrapped stars. These performances were bracketed, of course, by sets of carols sung by the whole school- 25 or 30 pupils from Grade One to Grade Eight. All of this was performed in a cold village hall. The stove would be heaped with wood and lit early in the day, but the heat never made it through backstage where young girls shivered in crepe paper dresses waiting for their entrance.
The teacher must have pulled out her hair through most of this. She would wait to be judged and hopefully not found wanting by the audience. The audience would be made up of parents and families of the students and I'm sure some of them counted stage moments to be sure their child was getting his or her fair share. At least one child would get stage fright and attempt to flee. Without microphones, the audience had to struggle to hear the tiny voices of the wee ones. Huge cardboard letters would be held upside-down. Actors' minds would blank until you could hear the cues increasing in whisper volume from behind the scenes. Young performers would spot their parents in the crowd and wave or call out to them. The pianist would get the order of carols wrong-or the pianist would get the order right and the pupils would get it wrong. Popcorn strands on the tree would break and scatter, and someone would burst into tears.
But, in the end, after Santa had made his appearance and the bags of candy handed out, and Teacher presented with her gift, the hall would heave a collective sigh of satisfaction and proclaim it "the best concert ever", before bundling up and heading home in the December cold.