My two younger grandchildren attend Dollard des Ormeaux elementary school in the South West of Montreal. Today was the day of the Christmas concert and at l pm many parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts and younger siblings trooped into the decorated gym of the little school. We were a mixed bag both in age and in origin. Faces from all corners of Asia, from Africa, from Central America and a sizable group of French and English Canadians peered at the decorated stage as they scanned the room for seats. The students ranged in age from kindergarten tots to sixth graders.
Who is this wonder-worker, Mme. Victoria who managed to make children in grade one perform recognizable music on xylophones, who choreographed babies in a Canadian reel, who held serious pre-teens’ attention with flutes and songs? I was astonished at the quality of the performances. My two, dressed in their best clothes, stood with their class and played handbells to produce a pleasant and familiar carol. Of course, one mother’s idea of “best clothes” can differ from that of another. I almost jumped out of my seat at one point to separate a particularly brilliant orange outfit from another purple hippy look. Could those two really stand next to each other without the lights shorting out on the tree? Tule, lumberjack shirts, bow ties, suit jackets, leggings teamed with lame, and the headgear – – Santa caps, cowboy hats, hijabs, hairbands. The feast for the eyes of these darlings was almost better than the music…I said almost.
There was a nod to English carols (in their instrumental versions). The teachers sang, the lunch ladies sang, the children sang and played triangles, tambourines, bells, musical tubes and they were wonderful, wonderful. If anyone wants to decry public schools, they should come around to our concert! Those children had been taught to collect their instruments, come on stage properly, play while watching their conductor, bow to their audience and leave in an orderly way. Bravo, Mme. Victoria!
It was a Christmas concert complete with tree and “Once in Royal David’s City” and yet there was enough about peace and love to keep everyone comfortable. As I walked home through the snowy lanes to have tea with my daughter when it was all over I thought how lucky we are to live in this community, in this country, in this welcoming atmosphere. There is a lot talked about integration these days. Integration takes two parties – a host group that understands its own heritage and is flexible and warm enough to include others. It takes newcomers too who are curious and accepting and flexible. Everyone got to be himself today whether we were performing, in the audience or working to create something beautiful.
Two younger siblings, one a cherub with blond curls and another child whose parents might have been Chinese or Korean grew bored with the proceedings. I got a good shot of them playing under the folding chairs, but their parents left before I could ask permission to post the picture. Never mind. Perhaps an image of these branches in the lane will do-separate yet growing close together in this Winter celebration. Merry Christmas everyone!