We are Nearing the Holiday Season | Part 3

This Year, Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus (OEBGMC) is working hard on some classic tunes that remind me of my roots. This is the third blog in my series, “Whatever happens or what may be, here is what Christmas time means to me…”

Oakland-East Bay Gay Men's Chorus

My father was a musician, our neighbor was a dance choreographer, my mother loved the arts. I saw lots of dance and theatre when I was a kid, and I fell in love with the performing arts. Maybe it was the tights and the dance belts, or maybe it was the stories set to music and told by flowing arms, legs and jumps. By the time my mom took me to see the Nutcracker, I was already aware of the form, but like most kids when they see it, I was enthralled, not by the mice or the nutcracker (although, those tights!!!), but by the dancing sweets and treats in the second act. Sugar plums, though? Why do they pop up here, and not only here, but also in “A Visit from St. Nick,” which my father would read to us every December (“while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads…”)? Why do Sugar Plums get their own Fairy? Is she anything like the Tooth Fairy?  I don’t know, but these are the things running through my head as OEBGMC rehearses our version of “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.”

I also did some acting, not really any major parts–I’m a solid chorus member. One of the shows I did in high school was “Scrooge.”  I had read the book A Christmas Carol along with other Dickens, Stevenson, and other 19th century authors. I love the scary ghost stories and the way Scrooge gets to revisit his life and reimagine a kinder way to live, much like Jimmy Stewart does in It’s A Wonderful Life.  But how to capture the whole story of Scrooge in two minutes? Ah, come to our concert, Dec 2, 9, 10, to hear OEBGMC’s rendition of “Ebenezer the Miser.”

I can’t get through the Holidays without remembering my mother. My Christmas memories will forever be mingled with her death; she died about 3 weeks after Christmas of a brain tumor in January, 2000. Her last Christmas was spent in my home in Columbus, Ohio, in our front parlor where the hospice folk had set up her hospital bed. Her tumor torsed her body into a fetal position and we had to turn her bed so she could see the tree. My sister and I, who shared Mom’s power of attorney, had to decide how to buy Christmas presents for our mother, who loved Christmas, and whom we knew would die soon. How much is appropriate to spend when it will only be enjoyed for days or weeks?

I know my mother would have loved OEBGMC’s Holiday Show. It captures the sentiments of Christmas: the quiet darkness, the snow—she loved how it squeaked after a cold dry snow, the joy, the songs, the yearning for home and the longing for happier days, even as we are living the happiest days we know. She would have loved the schmaltzy, “Silver Bells,” and “Sleigh Ride,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” She would love the haunting “Yuletide Fires” and “There is Faint Music in the Air.” She would have bounced with the jubilant “Gaudete (Joy)” and “Cantate Hodie! (Sing, Today!)”. She would have laughed at “Jingles Bells” and “Ebenezer, the Miser.” She would have cried at “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

I have often worked on or around Christmas. One year right after college, I was working nights in Milwaukee, and my mother and sister drove up from Ohio for Christmas. It was a meager feast, of Cornish game hens, but it was family. “Spread pure white linen for a feast, perchance some guest may share,” OEBGMC sings in our opening number, “Yuletide Fires.” Christmas means to me setting the table for the guests who have gone before, the ones, like my mother, who died too young, and the ones, like my Grandfather and Grandmother who died after living long, lovely lives. And Christmas is about new traditions with new loved ones; since moving to the East Bay 7 years ago, my husband and friends have made it a habit to go to the Dickens Faire every year right after Thanksgiving. And now I’ve added the Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus as part of my Christmas memories.

OEBGMC sings, “Christmas makes you feel emotional. It may bring parties and thoughts devotional. Whatever happens, or what may be, this is what Christmas time means to me.” Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus Holiday Concert is guaranteed to bring up memories and make some new traditions. Hope to see you in Fresno, Clayton, or at Freight and Salvage!

Tony Clark, Tenor 2