If my memory serves me correct, our high school band played three concerts. The first was the Fall concert, usually in early November, which featured both Concert Band and Marching Band songs. The Spring Concert happened in mid-May, and usually featured some of the more “fun” songs. In between those, we had a holiday concert in December.
This concert featured both the Concert Band and the various choir groups. The band almost always opened the concert and would play every 5th or 6th song. I think the band may have played a total of 4 or 5 songs during the entire concert. My grandparents, who were at every band concert, disliked the Christmas concert. They didn’t like having to wait so long to hear the band play.
It wasn’t easy for us band kids to sit on the stage throughout the entire concert either. I want to say that the area of the stage that the band was on was darkened while the choirs sang. It didn’t stop some of the goofing off in the brass and percussion sections. I can recall the drummers dropping things more than one time while the choirs were singing. They would get the “evil eye” from our band director which basically said, “Cut it out!”
The concert always ended with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah. Our choir director would invite any alumni up to the stage to join in and sing. It was a perfect way to end the concert. The stage was already packed with the band and all the choir people, but we always made room for the various alumni singers.
The holiday concert my senior year was pretty special for me. I can’t recall if it was the entire trumpet section, but we all got to go up on the roof of the auditorium a half hour before the concert and play Christmas carols. They were arranged in 4 part harmony and it sounded so cool. I was lucky enough to direct the players. I can only imagine how cool it must have been for folks walking into the concert and hearing us from the roof.
As a kid, I stumbled on a Boston Pops Christmas album. It had many of the songs that would play over the PA system as you walked through K-Mart or Hudson’s during the holiday season. The first song on the album was an almost 9 minute medley of Christmas songs by Leroy Anderson called A Christmas Festival.
The song remains one of my favorites to this day. I used to grab a stick and crank this up in my headphones and “conduct” the orchestra in my room. For the holiday concert my senior year, we actually got to play it, which made it even cooler for me. I was so familiar with it already, but playing it was challenging. It was a tough piece. There were plenty of time signature changes and key changes, and some high notes. We also played the “band” version of it, which was a little different from the “orchestra” version. It was such a neat piece to play. One of the things I did after the concert was grab a copy of the conductor’s score so I could watch it as I listened to the record from home.
Give it a listen:
After we graduated, there were a few times that some of the alumni band got together to play Christmas carols in the lobby prior to the school’s holiday concert. I miss those days and miss playing my horn.