On March 23rd, the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keiller noted that it was George Fridiric Handel’s birthday. The composer is best known for his musical piece The Messiah. Listening to it in the early morning, I was taken back to my high school years when my school would produce a Christmas pageant. I know, where would that happen now?
It was the mid-80s and it was a small town. However, do not let the picture of a small town’s high school theater and choral department cloud your mind. This small town had (and still has) high quality theater productions. But, it was the small town and its apparently largely Christian population that did not decry having a Christmas pageant. And no one seemed to have second thoughts that at the time the theater director was Jewish.
During auditions I was up for Mary, but what was usually the case when I auditioned, I ended up as the runner-up White Angel standing a la tableau next to the archangel Gabriel informing Mary of her situation. Our director loved a big production and he was amazing at creating it. To this point, the same year I graduated he left our small town and ended up at a well-known high school outside of Chicago that was huge and had an amazing theater department. He was and still is amazing. The choral director was also incredibly talented and did not shy away from difficult music. Hence, they sang the Alleluia Chorus.
When I hear this song it immediately takes me back to a very special time in my life. I had moved my junior year of high school to this small town and I thought my life was over, but really it was a new start for me. I made friends that I still have to this day and the productions I participated in were the best. Our director expected the best out of all of us and we usually came through.
We had the most amazing angel’s costumes made out of the heaviest material with huge angles wings. The scrim behind us that hid the chorus made us look like we were in the clouds. So much joy!
Here’s a link to a 2015 article about it. I guess it was still happening even in 2015.