The orchestra was in a parade! OK, not the entire orchestra. All right, not the orchestra at all but the children's chorus and a few board members. Next Saturday, the orchestra will perform our annual Christmas concert along with a stage full of kids singing songs written by Alex Bevan, a Cleveland-area folk legend. Nearly 25 of those kids piled into a giant sleigh on wheels last night and sang their hearts out.
Small Town puts on a humdinger of a Christmas parade every year, with lighted floats and Santa and a marching band and hot chocolate. All the participants line up near the football stadium, and after kick-off time, the parade heads toward the main drag, turns right and bee-lines for the square. The route is sparsely populated initially, but more people are sitting or standing street side as you go along; and when you reach the square, which is brightly lit and festive, you find yourself surrounded by townspeople, all waving and hoping for candy. And the announcer tells everyone who you are and what you do, and in that moment, you shine.
In our case, we shined by having the kids sing Tom Paxton's "Marvelous Toy." We blasted a recording of the chorus from a previous year, and they joined in with Conductor Eric handling the verses. Sometimes they sang Jingle Bells instead, but they mostly did the Toy song complete with motions.
I had my heart set on being in this parade, mostly because I feel strongly that the orchestra needs to establish itself as a part of the community, not just as the group that sells tickets to concerts a few times a year, but as a full-fledged contributing institution. Doing things like riding in parades now and then seems a simple enough way to help make that connection in the minds of the people. "Oh, that's right. We have our own orchestra," I want them to say. "Aren't we fortunate?" It was tough going at first to convince the powers in charge this parade was a good thing, and at one point, I started referring to it as "that damn parade." But by kick-off time, it was more like "that glorious parade."
I also wanted to be in this parade because it's one of the best things going in this dingy town. At night when the holiday lights are on, you don't notice the empty buildings or slipping standard of living. With people cheering, you can't hear anyone refusing to fund a crumbling high school or griping about politics. This one single parade unifies us and lets us put on our best face. We need that, every one of us. We need to see we still have a best and positive and hopeful face to show.
My friend Katy and I road on the big, giant sleigh with the kids, and as we turned the corner and headed toward the square, we looked at each other and wondered about how the whole experience just made us want to cry. And as we turned the final corner at the end of the route, we were disappointed it was all over. Too fun, too heart-warming, too short.
I hope our participation in Small Town's parade helped boost the orchestra's presence in the community and helped show kids along the route they should join the choir next Christmas. I know for certain it did me good, riding along with the "Marvelous Toy" and happy kids and a singing conductor.
Here is our orchestra performing "Marvelous Toy" a year or two ago. Enjoy: