“Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, please to put a penny in an old man’s hat. If you haven’t got a penny a half penny will do, and if you don’t have a half-penny, God bless you.”
Wikipedia credits this song as derived from a British nursery rhyme, which makes sense, since the United States doesn’t have a half-penny coin.
In high school, Lois Worthington, the director of the Madera High School A Cappella Choir, began teaching us Christmas music on the first day of school. While in music “a cappella” means sung without instrumental accompaniment, our choir was fortunate to have the services of some excellent student pianist. The one that comes to mind most often is a presenty-day local Realtor named Jane Wiebe, nee Yakligian.
Even though it has been 43 years since I donned my royal blue choir robe with the white satin stole, I can still remember the lyrics to a large number of Christmas songs. And yet there are often times I can’t remember why I go into the living room. I sang tenor. While I have always been able to sing, I don’t have a very pretty voice.
Speaking of Christmas songs, imagine how crowded your home would be if you were George Shaw’s true love and he actually gave you all the gifts promised in his song “The 12 Days of Christmas.”
“On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me 12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 lords a-leaping nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree. Imagine hosting 50 people and 23 birds at Christmas! Who wouldn’t want five gold rings, but the rest of this stuff, is it a gift or a curse?
We sang a mixture of secular and religious Christmas songs. During the holiday season, our choir spent most of our noon hours performing at local service clubs. The service clubs typically paid the group a small honorarium and financed the use of a school bus to transport the choir from the school to the restaurant and back.
The most exciting performance our choir made the entire time I was in school was when we sang the national anthem during the opening ceremonies of the California Republican Women’s Convention in Fresno. At that performance, we entered the banquet hall of the Ramada Inn in Fresno carrying 50 American flags. We were featured on the evening news and it made for an impressive display.
I have always believed I have Lois Worthington to thank for my high school diploma. Had it not been for her I doubt I would have graduated.
She was a very strict teacher and she warned me that if I got suspended from school she would kick me out of choir. I’m not sure my behavior improved that much, I just got better at hiding my misdeeds. My biggest offense was always smoking out of bounds. The school rules dictated a student had to be a full block away from campus before lighting up. The corner of 7th and North K streets was the most popular spot for student smoking.
In spite of the fact that one had to be 18 to buy cigarettes and 21 years old to buy alcohol, there were always plenty of both available if you knew where to shop.
Have a great weekend.