Edmonton's Singing Christmas Tree
The Singing Christmas Tree
By: Bobbi Beatty
This just released: the cure for the winter blues and the Christmas bah-Humbugs has just been discovered! Do you suffer from the post-Thanksgiving blahs? Are you sick and tired and bored? Maybe you’re just waiting for that one sign, just like every year, that heralds the arrival of the ubiquitous Christmas spirit? Well, hang on to your hats, folks! The dispeller of the drearies, the grinder of the gloomies, the banisher of the blues is…wait for it…wait for it…(insert unnecessarily long pause here, in true American Idol style)…The Singing Christmas Tree!
The Singing Christmas Tree is the epitome of the Christmas season. You’ll dance down the store aisles, cheerily Christmas shopping after a good dose of jolly dancing Santas, the 150-voice choir perched in a 35 foot tree and a 25 piece orchestra. The beauty of the Singing Christmas Tree is that it’s fitting for all: young and old, Christian and other, happy and bah-humbugger.
Comprised entirely of volunteers—more than 300 to be precise—the 42-year-old musical wonder was born of humble beginnings. Initially performed at the Central Pentacostal Tabernacle Church in Edmonton, the show quietly disappeared in 2005. But current director, John Cameron, came to its rescue in 2009. With the help of the Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree Foundation Board and some dedicated sponsors, John breathed life into the show he so truly believes in.
John Cameron has been a part of the Singing Christmas Tree since he was 17 years old. He’s filled just about every role at some point: a member of the choir, soloist, conducting, playing piano and producer. His enthusiasm and belief in the show is infectious: it rings true in his words as he talks about it. His favourite part of the show? The kids. It’s all about the kids. While those in Hollywood say it’s difficult to work with kids and some refuse to even work with them at all, the Singing Christmas Tree is very different. These kids work hard and also believe in the purpose of the show.
It’s easy working with the kids, John says. “I love it; it’s fun times. They all get attached to each other; we all get attached. It’s very rewarding.” And he goes on to praise the children because they’re all so dedicated. It all comes together for him when the curtain finally goes up. His favourite moment working with the kids comes when he sees their eyes light up and watches them sing their hearts out.
And most importantly, these mini stars inspire John. “Their willingness to learn, to try new things, and to work hard energizes me” and everyone else around them, including the audience. The transformation in the audience is visible, and their applause is the children’s only reimbursement for their effort. And that is what Christmas and the Singing Christmas Tree is all about.
One of the young veterans of the show, Kara, 10, “loves it! It’s lots of fun!” While one of her favourite parts is the camaraderie, “I love talking in the dressing room with everyone,” the real reason she joined the show, and the reason she keeps doing it, cuts to the heart of the matter in that curious way children have of doing that: “it helps others feel happy.” She believes that other children should join the show too, so they can “help raise more money for the kids.” Because in the end, all of the net proceeds of the show go directly to Santa’s Anonymous.
So while the Singing Christmas Tree is a fun, lively, musical show with Christmas songs and brilliant lights and bright colours, its true purpose is so much more. The choir is made up solely of high school students, the dancing Santas are all children, and most of the performers are children. Using Top 40 pop music as a backdrop, the show is about making a difference, filling hearts with joy and changing people’s lives: the audience, the volunteers, and those less fortunate, who wouldn’t have Christmas otherwise.
The hope and goodwill shining in the eyes of the singers, the excitement sprinkling off the dancers, and the spirit inherent in the music is the magical combination that infuses itself in the audience to become “the spoonful of sugar,” the instant cure for those stubborn bah-humbugs. And it’s a universal cure, not one solely for followers of Christmas traditions, but a cure for us all. It’s hope wrapped in selflessness, cloaked in goodwill, and delivered as magical, musical fun.
Bobbi Beatty, a poet at heart, is the mother of three teenagers and managing editor of Other Voices Literary Journal in Edmonton, AB. She is currently in the final year of her Bachelor of Applied Communications in Professional Writing degree at Grant MacEwan University, where she is knee-deep in the writing of her novel, Venus Year.