Christmas concerts have changed.

So, today was my son’s Christmas Carol Concert. Now that he’s in year 1, and no longer in the semi-partitioned world of Foundation, he gets to participate with the rest of the school. I’m writing this, feeling like I’ve crossed over the threshold into the mythical world of the “School mum”. As though last year and the weeks of this one so far didn’t count.

Still, this is the first time I have felt compelled to write about something specifically and only relating to my children on here. So maybe that is a rite of passage of sorts.

You see, I was a little sceptical about the children having only a “carol concert”, and no nativity once they were out of Foundation. I’m no practising Christian – I’m thoroughly agnostic with a logical leaning for much of the time, but I guess I can be pretty traditional about some things. And there’s something nice, isn’t there, about trotting out to see your precious child say nothing at all in the school play while the children of the more prominent PTA members get to be Mary and Joseph. (The highlight of my Nativity experience was being a rag doll in Santa’s workshop, captured for milliseconds on gloriously blurry VHS.)

That was how it was done, right? When I was at school, costumes were home-made and nigh unrecognisable. You sang Away in a Manger tonelessly and raggedly, while the teacher who could play the piano trotted out her repertoire on an upright which was only a little out of tune. And there was a good chance the parents could understand at least one word in three of Silent Night.

This year, I sat near the back of a hall at the neighbouring secondary school, watching my son stand with his year group singing a song about Christmas crackers, after which they marched off the stage to let the next year on. There was no piano – instead, a very polished CD was played which the children sang along to, and tried to be as loud as the rather more in-tune children’s choir it featured. It was a lot more slick and jazzy, but somehow, I couldn’t help feeling as though something had been missed.

The only year group which do a Nativity at my son’s school are Foundation. Well, last year the Boy was sick on the day we were to go and see it, so I was unable to see his performance as a “Non-talking Shepherd”, and it looks as though that was my only shot. maybe it’s just my bitterness at missing his one and only Nativity, but I can’t help feeling that sitting children in rows so they can sing along to a bunch of other (no doubt older) children singing better than they can is slightly missing the point.

I don’t go to a primary school carol concert looking for polish and quality. I go to see my son, and as much as it might make me a bad person, I don’t care about the other five years, all singing in turn. Or even watching 360 children standing in a group singing a song I have heard a rather more flat version of at home for the last fortnight. Especially when I know that I’m not hearing him anyway. I’m listening to a CD, played out on speakers because 360 children means a whole lot of parents and the borrowing of a secondary school’s hall to accomodate them.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think I would have preferred what my parents got. An out of tune piano and a rag-tag of children who sing their off-key hearts out, missing or forgetting words and generally sounding like what they are. Children. Our children.

When did it become the done thing to replace their (let’s be honest, not very good) singing with the singing of some other people’s children?

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