Are traditional school productions a thing of the past? Or can the authentic experience still be delivered virtually?
One of the traditions at Menno Simons Christian School has been the Christmas production put on by the Grade 5 class at the school. The torch is passed on yearly to this class, an opportunity to hone their acting skills and give them a taste for what is to come in junior high when they get to audition for the spring production. Does a worldwide pandemic make this opportunity disappear?
Not if Christina Carpenter has anything to do with it.
On Dec. 10, 2020, the school delivered a virtual Christmas event for the school community. Was the school in the middle of a lock-down? Yes. Were things pre-recorded? Yes. Was the school and its supporters able to come together as a community? Yes, albeit virtually. Was the feeling the same? Some would say it was even better!
Packages were sent home with programs, treats and song sheets for a sing-along, along with links and reminders to click into a virtual gathering of singing and games.
Most importantly, the Grade 5 students memorized a script, practised their stage presence, and recorded a special production of The Little Drummer Dude for the community to watch. The result? Almost 100 families logged in to an evening of singing, virtual games and, most importantly, community. Parents had the best seat in the house as well as a perfect recording to be enjoyed for years to come.
In this new era of virtual realities, innovation is key to making music and building community.
Carpenter, in her seventh year at Menno Simons, has had to be innovative in her approach as the school’s artistic director. With singing off the table and multiple restrictions on what bands look like, she had to be creative to deliver her program.
What does creativity look like? Delivery of more theory, action-oriented music and percussion. Thoughtfulness in spacing and maintenance of band instruments and even using “pee pads” to handle spit valves in a sanitary fashion
All this so the halls could still be filled with joyful sounds of praise, and music could still be enjoyed in the hearts and minds of those who performed and watched.
Menno Simons can’t wait to see what happens next, because everyone knows “the show must go on!”
The Three Wise Men check their map in Menno Simons Christian School’s 2020 virtual Christmas production of The Little Drummer Dude. The performers are not identified as per school policy. (Photo: Ann Pan / Menno Simons Christian School)