My mom called me the other night to talk, and she asked me if I’ve been to any Christmas concerts lately. Stating the obvious and telling her no, she informed me that my whole entire family was going to one back home tonight—without me.
I will admit I was kind of upset. Having to stay at school for an extra week before break on account of one final that I had on the last possible day to have them, I was annoyed that I couldn’t be home already, knowing I was missing out on Christmas activities with the family.
Regardless, I asked where the concert was, and when my mom told me, I figured it must be something new. Of course the only Christmas concerts I remember were St. Ann’s Original School’s, my elementary school’s, annual Christmas pageants.
Every year St. Ann’s would put on this Christmas show down at the church on Magnolia and Atlantic. Each grade, kindergarten through eighth, sang two traditional Christmas songs. It was a big night. We’d spend hours for the past few weeks in class learning the songs and singing them as a class, then walking down to the church to practice singing them on the altar and practicing walking up to the altar in order so we got it just perfect.
Everyone looked forward to the Christmas pageant, no matter what grade you were in. It was a night to dress up, it was a night to spend outside of school with your fellow classmates, and it was a time to spread some Christmas cheer. Although I enjoyed them every year, one year’s Christmas concert stands out in particular. I was in eighth grade.
Now anyone who ever went to St. Ann’s knows that the eighth grade sings two songs—“The Twelve Days of Christmas” and “Children, Go Where I send Thee.” This does not change. Anyone who ever went to St. Ann’s also knows this. But, considering that my class was the first huge class the school had ever had, having to split us up into two separate classes with two separate teachers, we broke this tradition, naturally.
Really, our class didn’t mind singing the traditional songs, our only request was that all 60-something of us got to stand on the altar and sing them together. Since the staff finally agreed to that, I guess they figured we might as well choose our own Christmas songs to sing as well, since we were already going against tradition. And we chose to go along with it.
The night of the concert, we were the last to take the altar. All of us had Christmas hats on, another new tradition, carrying newspapers. One of us was carrying a radio. Another one dressed up as a newspaper boy. Our family and friends in the audience looked baffled. It was not what they were expecting.
We took the altar in silence and waited until all eyes were on us. Then someone turned on the radio to a pretty funky beat. All of us began clapping our hands, as two more paperboys made their way up the center isle from the back of the church. The audience was shocked. I don’t recall the name of the song, but I remember the opening lines:
Extra, extra, read all about it. Extra, extra we’re gonna shout it. Glory, glory, oh what a story. We’ve got news for you.
And shout it we did. We filled that church with the sound of our voices, so loudly that everyone in there started joining along. It was probably the first concert I remember where people in the audience sang. And that’s why I remember it. And that’s why it was special.