Stephanie Lewis - Music & Education Talks expert

Watch out! It's the Christmas Show

Discuss with Stephanie the value of the typical Christmas show

In this ironic video, Stephanie hyperbolizes the typical kids' annual Christmas show performed around the world at Christmas time with the hope to find a way to make it better. How can we improve it? Any ideas? Be sure to share your thoughts with Stephanie!

Released on December 7, 2016

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, I'm Stephanie for Virtual Sheet Music. With Christmas being 'round the corner, I wanted to look at an issue that is frankly as dense as the plum pudding we eat every year. It's that event which gives educational institutions a chance to get back at parents for their children's unruly behavior, unfinished homework, etc., etc. Yes indeed, it's the Christmas show, the show with a message supposed to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It's probably just me, but as both parent and teacher, I've yet to leave a show without literally thinking, "What was all that about?"

With kids mumbling their lines away using 20-year-old PA systems that, if anything, seem to highlight onstage mistakes. I often wonder whether this annual tradition hasn't simply morphed into some kind of modern 21st century form of torture. Sure, there are the frozen of supporters, smiles of the parents, but I think - and this is only just a personal theory, okay - I think that these smiles mask a deeper, darker, mental activity that, if I am anything to go by, usually revolve around an unbearable desire to be at the pub, maybe singing Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," but let's think about it.

At these Christmas extravaganzas, you firstly got to get over the various personality types onstage, the most obvious one being the precocious little know-it-all. You know what I'm talking about, the one who says his own and everyone else's lines, positions himself as close to the front of the stage as possible, and shouts out every song turning red in the process. Then of course, you've got the deer-caught-in-the-headlamps child - you know this one? - that are frozen onstage and that no amount of global warming is ever going to thaw. You've got the naughty child whose hand is held throughout, the human prop child who can't be trusted with anything, not even breathing, and of course, my personal favorite, you've got the child who makes his appearance post-show because, of course, the teachers forgot all about him with all the backstage chaos going on.

Then there are zillions of extras, our own of course little Johnnys who, if you're lucky, you'll happen to spot just once in the whole production, and if you're even luckier, you'll see his face. But of course, let's not forget the music. Here you've got the generally female music teacher who mouths the words and provides these kind of gestures in front of the stage in a desperate attempt to help with the lyrics and who strangely looks both schizophrenic and a goldfish at the same time. Then you've got her assistant, music teacher number 2, who needs to juggle between 7 to 10 different pieces of piano music, improvising as and when told to do so, and of course, lining up successive stereo tracks and adjusting volume and etc etc., rather like that Hindu goddess Durga with her 18 arms.

With a recipe like that, something's going to go wrong. That CD that jumps due to onstage dancing or even that stereo power suddenly cut and you got the 20 little kids stranded onstage quite unable to manage this theatrical setback. I mean, it's just brilliant. Actually it seems we have to really forget the music and, indeed, the theater, because you know what it is? It's the visual. It's the costumes and sceneries that save the day at these spectaculars. It's those talented moms invariably who add sparkle and zest, talents that literally make La Scala's efforts, by comparison, look tawdry. They magically make our kids look great when all else is, well, a little painful.

Now, whilst you may not agree with my own thoughts on that annual Christmas show - and please, if you don't, do get in touch and share some of your stories. We would love to hear them - you still have to admit that these parents that get involved in the artistic development of their children are selfless and frankly unrecognized. So it is to them, therefore, that I raise my glass of wine, and while I'm at it, I'll toast to you as well. Enjoy your festive productions if you can, and of course, if it's all too much, I can only suggest some therapy in the form of Tom Lehrer, the link of which is below. Happy Christmas, and see you in 2017.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Marie Ha on March 1, 2017 @4:22 pm PST
Ha! I have found a happy medium: instead of stopping instruction altogether and getting ready for the big show, I have been making the concert a display of the songs the students have enjoyed the most and had the most success with throughout the school year. The downside is that I am constantly revamping my lesson plans to incorporate new music every year, but it keeps me on my toes. Just to add to the debate:
Stephanie Lewis - host, on March 2, 2017 @11:38 am PST
Dear Marie, I suspect you teach with both heart and intelligence! Thanks for your viewpoint and for the link too its 'music consuming' as opposed to music producing reference really resonated with me. Teaching so that 'shows' are simply a natural extension of work done in class i.e. the learning should be universal practice...and yet the reality is often so different! Thanks so much for your contribution. Steph
Jenni * VSM MEMBER * on December 8, 2016 @10:28 am PST
I had so much fun watching this video. I am a mother and a music teacher, I think that most of the time, the problem in schools is the lack of money. Merry Christmas to you, as well.
Stephanie Lewis - host, on December 8, 2016 @1:00 pm PST
Dear Jenni, great hearing from you and so pleased to have put a smile on your face. If you've any stories to share, don't hold back...but if not, merry Christmas and see you next year! All the best, Steph
Jenni * VSM MEMBER * on December 8, 2016 @4:31 pm PST
Thank you Stephanie for replying! I'll try to share some stories later on... keep it up!
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