Hay’s Daze: The annual Christmas concert debacle

Only a week or two to go ‘till the big day – Dec. 28th, my scheduled root canal! Oh, and also Christmas Day! So in the spirit of the joyful season and dental pain, here’s another revisited story for you:

Those last school days before Christmas Holidays seemed to be the longest days of the entire South School year, and the only thing that saved us was that most famous of all school disasters: the Annual Christmas Concert.

Since Marty and me both had recently joined in the new Optimist Drum and Bugle Marching Band we got roped in — an unlike duo of Marty on lead trumpet and me on stand-up marching snare drum. As you can imagine, the song list for a trumpet/drum combo is a tad limited, but since the concert was about Christmas, the obvious choice was to attempt an instrumental version of the classic Little Drummer Boy.

I am nervous, my hands sweating so badly I am sure that one of my heavy Regal Tip 2B drumsticks is going to fly out of my hand and stick right into an innocent Grade One-er’s eyeball in the front row. And of course it doesn’t help that Chip is sitting right there making goofy faces at us as we peek out from the side curtain, trying to make us laugh before we even start.

A hush dampens the din in the packed gym as principal Barry takes the stage like he’s Ed Sullivan: It looks like there are 8,000 people out there and I’m trying to decide whether it would be better to faint or throw up.

Suddenly the curtain opens and somehow we lurch into The Little Drummer Boy, like jumping off of the end of the wooden pier at Sylvan Lake — eyes closed, full-tilt, screaming and kicking. It’s a pretty shaky at first, but somehow, some way — Christmas miracles of Christmas miracles — from the third or fourth “Pa Rum Pa Pum Pum,” it sort of sounds pretty good, and then…

SNAP! Right in the forehead. And beside me Marty winces and BLAT! goes his trumpet. Owww!

Sure enough Chip has a pea shooter, and he’s deadly with that thing, and he’s nailing us left and right with little white rock-hard dried spit-ball peas!

Marty and me are twitching and jumping around — it’s like being attacked by a swarm of stinging bees — but somehow we are still “ra pa pa pumming” away and we’re on the home stretch, and in spite of us both doing a Pea Shooter Jig, Marty hits and holds the final note and I do a drum roll like you do when you’re playing Oh Canada, and…. RIMSHOT! And we leave the stage like our underpants were on fire.

We do get a nice big applause and we certainly made Chip’s day and the Little Drummer Boy tune was stuck in the heads of every concert goer in the South School gym for the rest of the day.

Finally, the big South School concert ends with all Grade One-ers singing We Wish You A Merry Christmas directed with great joy and enthusiasm by Miss Seaburn, who is a first year teacher and therefore still has a lot of joy and enthusiasm, and even us Grade Fivers, the kings of the school in our last year before moving on to Junior High at Central, even us keen and cool older kids secretly thought it was a pretty neat concert. Somehow it kind of captured everything that’s right about Christmas.

Oh, and we buried Chip in a snowbank on the way home from school.

Harley Hay is a writer and filmmaker in Red Deer.

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