Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A review of the preschool Christmas pageant

Merry (almost) Christmas.

On Monday, my parents graciously attended the holiday performance at Lily's preschool (i.e. terrified 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds dressed up in green and red stand in front of their overeager parents, grandparents and a sea of recording devices to sing pre-selected Christmas songs). 

It was, of course, adorable.

Though not everyone in the audience was blown away by the pageantry.

For instance, Dad. 

Now, I love my dad. And I love that he attended Lily's performance when he could've been poking around antique shops, baking scones or playing MineSweeper on his computer. He loves all 13 of his grandchildren. Truly. But the thing is, he's not always beguiled by the various rites of passage and tableaus of being small. 

The diapers and tiny clothes and amazing feats of childhood – first words, first steps, first teeth – don't seem nearly as impressive to him as they do to the rest of the family. He's more comfortable connecting with the littles by showing off his electric train set or helping out with puzzles or reading a story or taking a walk. 

He's been a father for more 46 years and a grandfather for 20 and he's still getting used to the idea that small people are interested in spending time with him. Talking to him. Or, god forbid, hugging him. He's a couple pats on the head sort of guy.

That's how he says I love you.

And he says it, too, by showing up for the things that matter to the rest of us. Even if he's not all that impressed and might rather be reading about the Founding Fathers or learning about the theory of relativity or sanding a piece of wood from an especially beautiful tree.

Ever watch "Parks and Recreation"? Dad is Ron Swanson.

So imagine Ron Swanson goes to a preschool Christmas Pageant.

I was amused watching Dad watch the show. So amused, in fact, I started taking notes. Notes that I've decided should be turned into a tongue-in-cheek review of the show from my Dad's perspective. 

So here goes:

Preschool Christmas program is exactly what you'd expect

Reviewed by DAD

We all are born into this world with certain abilities.

Some excel at nurturing their families. Some are outstanding communicators. Some are natural-born leaders. Some have the ability to grasp sophisticated mathematics equations. 

And some are gifted dancers and singers.

The latter were in short supply at Eastminster Preschool's Christmas Program Monday morning.

While a few of the performers brought energy and volume to the contrived set of Christmas standards they sang, most of the participants looked as though they were rolled out of bed, wrapped in the requisite seasonal attire and trotted out in front of their doting relatives against their will.

Suffice to say, there were no Shirley Temples lined up at the front of the sanctuary. 

(Though based on the number of parents standing in the wings taking photos like members of the White House Press Corps, you'd think we were watching Andrea Bocelli perform Handel's "Messiah." Now that is an artist.)

The show began with a fairly lackluster version of "Jingle Bells" – the children's voices drowned out by the bells they were given to ring – not in unison, I should note – throughout the song. This was followed by two lesser known "bell"-related tunes, "Ring the Bells" and "Christmas Bells." More boisterous out-of-synch ringing; still no audible singing. 

At least one child dropped her bell, cried and refused to participate in the remainder of the program. Whatever happened to "the show must go on"? The West End, this was not.

Thankfully, the bells were surrendered and replaced with what appeared to be paper ice cream cones – I am told they were candles – in a rather clunky transition. 

Enthusiasm waned midway through the program and the various teachers were forced to pick up the slack – carrying the show when the younger performers decided, inexplicably, that it was time for a break.

Thankfully, the pianist and flutist accompanying the singers were competent. As the chorus seemed to give up, these talented musicians reminded the audience that we were, in fact, listening to Christmas songs, not just off-key mumbling from a collection of children who looked as if they'd rather be watching "Sesame Street."

(Speaking of the audience, have you ever tried listening to a concert while various children -- notably the young man somewhere behind me -- screamed? While I completely understand their boredom, had they never received a lesson on decorum during their two years of life?!)

Just when it seemed the show could not be salvaged, it was time for "Rudolph the Red-Nosed  Reindeer" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Finally, a song where everyone knew more than two of the words and that was  song with gusto – especially when the choreography involved them punctuating the word "wish" with a punch into the air (though the unfortunate child in the front row who was smacked in the back of the head with an especially exuberant "wish!"). 

I was surprised that a Christmas show at a church did not include more non-secular songs. Where was "Adeste Fideles"? "Once in Royal David's City"? "Oh Holy Night" (come to think of it, I'm not sure I'd want to hear this little voices butcher the high notes in that one.) At least I have my copy of "A Festival of Carols in Brass" from the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble.

Overall, the show was exactly what I expected. 

Sometimes during the holidays, it pays to lower your expectations.

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