I went into the Kids Matinee this year with a sense of dread. We had several “kids songs” that didn’t feel like very good kids’ songs. “Christmas Time is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas? (Do kids even watch that any more?) “Must Be Santa?” They say kids learn this one in school but I had never heard of it until this year. (Then again, I had never heard “The Man with the Bag” until our Santa Medley included it.) Plus “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” for which I think everyone expected a soloist who was a stereotypical Big Black Woman with some gospel soul in her heart… only to see the diminuitive, perky, and very white Maureen Brennan make an appearance at the orchestra rehearsal. She would be the guest soloist for all the kids’ shows this year. It was a facepalm moment. I was so happy I only had one kids’ matinee on my concert schedule.
Fast forward to last Satuday at 11am. The concert’s about to start. The chatter in the crowd was decidedly in a higher register as I saw all the kids in the crowd clearly excited to be there. When the opening piece started, one 3 or 4 year old in the 1st balcony stood on his mom’s lap and waved his arms frantically trying to imitate Keith conducting. When Maureen came out all perky and bouncy with her hi-boys-and-girls attitude, it felt very genuine and really engaged the audience, young and old. (As opposed to when she turned it on briefly at the orchestra rehearsal a few weeks earlier, all she really got was a lot of eye rolls from the choristers.) When Keith announced that we’d be doing an excerpt from A Charlie Brown Christmas there was definitely an oooh from the crowd as they recognized it — even though, as Keith jokingly pointed out, when he was little it was only on once a year. If you missed it you had to wait a whole ‘nother year to see it. There were no DVRs, no On Demand, no cable. Didn’t matter, it was a hit. And don’t get me started on when Santa came out, and stayed for all of Must Be Santa (with everyone singing along). In fact, the whole show was a hit. It really put me in the Christmas spirit and left me quite energized. It was nice to remember that THAT was why I sang at Holiday Pops!
So I almost feel bad that we didn’t drag our older son Jack along to a concert this year. Almost. Last year the big sing-through piece was The Polar Express and that was a big hit with him at 3-1/2 years old. This year it was a medley of Christmas carols telling “the original Christmas Story” with Robert Honeysucker or our old pal Jim Demler narrating and singing. No one was foolish enough to think that would keep the kids engaged, so it wasn’t even on the children’s matinee program. Yet at almost a full 90 minutes this year (with no intermission!) I think there were enough fun things that Jack and his attention span would have made it to the end.