A Christmas concert is a major part of the festive season for many people, and when it is presented one of Toronto’s historic cathedrals, the enjoyment is greatly increased. When I was a boy in the 1940s, I attended a small church that had no resemblance to a cathedral, and the Christmas concert was certainly not of the calibre that I witnessed this year (2015) at the Metropolitan United Church at Queen Street East and Church Street.
In the 1940s, in the small church of my childhood, the roles that we were to perform in the Sunday School Christmas concert were arbitrarily handed to us in mid-November, and the rehearsals commenced the first week of December. The concert was always held on a Saturday night, and it resembled a variety show. There were solos, duets, trios, pantomimes, short plays, elocutionists, and a choir composed of 35 or 40 children. There were always a few singers who were slightly off-key, someone who forgot their lines, and another who invariably tripped over the the heavy draperies that had been suspended in front of the pulpit to act as a stage curtain. However, the evening was always considered a great success by the parents and adult friends that filled the church to capacity. One or two gushing parents told us that we were almost ready for the stage at Massey Hall.
Following the concert, everyone gathered in the church basement around the enormous tree to receive our presents from Santa, who possessed a striking resemblance to the choir master. We did not think it strange, as Santa, carols and music were such integral parts of the festive season so why shouldn’t they all look alike? Along with our gifts, we were given an orange and a large shiny B. C. apple. These were considered great treats in the 1940s, as fresh fruit was difficult to obtain. There was no imported produce during the winter months and much of the available food supply was being shipped overseas to feed the troops fighting in Europe or the Pacific.
The Christmas concert at the Metropolitan Church rekindled many fond memories from my childhood. The pageant presented during the morning service on December 13th was much different to the simple Sunday school concert of my youth. The costumes and lighting were quite professional, the narrators the quality that one might expect of the CBC, and the soloists and choir were excellent. However, some parts of the pageant were the same as the days of yesteryear—the wonderful carols, the nervous smiles of the children, and the inattentive little boy in the shepherd’s costume who removed his woollen lamb’s-head to obtain a better view of the scene.
I departed the church with the wonder and warmth of Christmas within me. As I walked home along Queen Street, I paused to observe the adults and wide-eyed children enjoying the animated Christmas windows in the Bay Store. Then, continuing westward, I paused again to watch the skaters on the rink in Nathan Phillips Square, their excited laughter and shouts filling the mild December air. The magic of the season was everywhere throughout the city.
However, perhaps the greatest expression of the message Christmas this year is the arrival of the Syrian refugees and the manner in which they have been welcomed by Torontonians and other Canadians across the country. The true message of Christmas lives on after almost two thousand years, expressed in many different ways.
Merry Christmas 2015 –
P.S. The Carol Service at Metropolitan United Church at 7 p.m. on Sunday December 20, 2015 will be a real treat.
Scenes of the Christmas pageant at Metropolitan United
A link to the history of the Santa Claus Parade (1905-2015)
A link to five favourite sites in downtown Toronto to view Xmas lights
List of my 25 favourite memories of Christmas’ past.
To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/
A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.
A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:
The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these the movie houses of the past. The book is a trip down memory lane for those who remember these grand old theatres and a voyage of discovery for those who never experienced them.
To place an order for this book:
Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)
Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 more of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 130 archival photographs.
A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 70 of the city’s heritage sites with images of how the city once looked and how it appears today. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.