A Family for Christmas
The last Children's Christmas play I wrote music for was one that was written in house and called "A Family for Christmas."
The story is set in the great depression in the Chicago area, with scene one at a street on the way to the orphanage on Christmas Eve.
Both the Director (Dave Chatburn) and the House Mother (Anita Case) are well-intentioned, kind people, but the stress of taking care of the orphans with the diminishing support and hard times for a long time are wearing on them. And with Christmas coming up, they both know that it will be a meager Christmas dinner, let alone any hopes for something special or gifts that might make the holiday brighter for the children.
The Director, Jim, on his way to the orphanage, is greeted by a kind Jewish shop owner. They talk for a bit, and it's clear that the shop owner has high regard for the work the Director is doing and says so. The Director expresses his appreciation, but his demeanor clearly conveyed that he was struggling with his responsibilities. After a courteous discussion about how hard the times are, the director sighs, pulls out his pocket watch he'd received from his Father many Christmases ago, looks at the time and bids the shop owner good day. The shop owner comments on the beautiful watch and returns the greeting and says that if he ever decides to sell the watch it would yield a good price.
The pressure brings the House Mother, Julia, to ragged nerves and when asked by one of the orphans in their dorm room at an early evening hour if there is going to be anything special for Christmas, she retorts, "You're lucky to have a roof over your head and at least something to eat. Now stay in your room and get ready to go to sleep!". She goes into the adjacent room and cries quietly.
A small girl, Sherri (Cheri Potter), begins hugging her doll, saying "You're the only family I have left." She then sings "Everyone needs a Family".
The rest of the children start talking amongst themselves, and before long their discussion turns into an angry discourse that eventually turns into the song and dance, "It's Gonna be Another Crummy Christmas for Us."
One of the older strong natured girls (Dissea Allen) suggests they run away and try to find someplace different. Six of them dress and manage to scuttle down the downspout outside the window and get ready to head out. One girl at first wanted to go, but determined to stay there because she wants to believe her Mom is coming back for her (even though it's been years) and her Mom wouldn't know where to find her anywhere else.
After they'd gotten out, the smallest one, Sherri, in somewhat of a panic, tells the others that she forgot her doll - "She's the only family I have left." They try, but they can't manage to climb back up the drain spout and so have to leave before being discovered. The little girl, though extremely sad, continues on with the others.
The next scene is in the home of a middle-class couple who have managed to maintain somewhat of a good living due to the husband being able to keep his accounting job. They have no children, but not because they haven't tried. Even so, they are enjoying a nice Christmas Eve, finishing decorating their Christmas tree, listening to the radio and enjoying the fragrances coming from the kitchen. They discuss how nice it would be, some day, to have a child to celebrate with. They sing "Bless us with a child."
Back at the orphanage the Director becomes aware of the missing children and notifies the police, who put out an all points bulletin.
The kindly director finds the little girls doll and takes it with him, in search of the kids.
The Kids, in the meantime, are starting to become a bit nervous about their circumstances and realize they have no food, let alone clothes warm enough to keep them through the night.
The ringleader says, "Remember last year at the orphanage when those people singing carols walked through our neighborhood and folks offered them treats? Let's do that!"
One of the kids (Charlotte Armerding), apparently a bit confused said, "Go back to the orphanage and sing?"
"No, silly! Let's sing some carols next to a house that smells like good food!"
They walk a bit further and their senses were drawn to a small home with a nice Christmas tree in the window and began to bellow out (in not very pleasing tones) "Joy to the World".
Inside the home the husband hears the caterwauling, looks out the window and says, "There's a bunch of kids, I guess you'd call it singing, out on the lawn." The wife (Jenne Mowen) goes to the front door and looking out the window in the door sees them and tells him to invite them onto the porch - she'll get some cookies.
The husband, John, opens the door and suggests the kids come on up. "My wife is in the kitchen getting something for you."
The kids get onto the porch. About that time one of the kids sees a policeman out of the corner of his eye and shoves the rest of the kids into the house, through the door and closes it behind him. The husband is a bit taken back, but generates a friendly smile and says, "Go on in the kitchen."
About this time he hears the radio report that there are six orphans who are missing from the orphanage and suspects who they are. While the kids are scarfing down the vittles in the kitchen, he pulls his wife aside and tells her the news.
"But they're such nice, well-behaved children." she says - "A bit hungry, but still nice. So, they're orphans?"
"John...." and a bit of a pause - "What would you think..." another pause - "What would you think about adopting them?"
"All of them!? Six kids!?"
"Well, yes. And you know we've been praying to start a family."
"Well, yeah - but I'd hoped we'd get it on the installment plan instead of all at once!"
Just then there's a knock at the door. The wife goes to the kitchen while John goes to the door and opens it. The Orphanage Director is standing there with the little girls doll in hand. At the same time, the little girl was coming in from the kitchen, but after seeing the Director ducked behind the Christmas tree before he could see her.
"A policeman mentioned that he happened to see some kids on your doorstep. Just in case you weren't aware, there are some missing kids from the orphanage that I'm trying to round up."
"Round up? Well that's fine language to use for children - they're not criminals."
"Sorry - it's just a figure of speech...." and then he happens to see a small hand at the edge of the Christmas tree. "Uh - if you happen to see them, be sure to tell the little girl, Sherri, that I have her doll." (He sees the Christmas tree shake a bit - the little girl was startled). "Perhaps you could check with anyone else in the house?"
The Husband says, "Stay here, I'll check with my wife in the kitchen."
When John goes into the kitchen, the Director whispers, "Sherri - you can come out - I know you're there."
She timidly comes out, then rushes to get her doll from the director.
After hugging her doll she says, "I missed her - she's the only family I have."
The Director is moved by the innocent honest ness and Sherri begins singing the song "Everyone Needs a Family" - he kneels down and they end it together.
The Director hugs the little girl. "I understand - let's see what we can do about that. You'll have to trust me, okay?"
The Director stand up and yells out, "So there you are, you little... escape artist. Where are the others?"
The Husband and Wife run into the living room - "What's going on?"
"What's going on? My sentiments exactly - What are you trying to pull here? I have to get those six kids back to the orphanage and punish them for causing all the ruckus and making me call the Police. What do you think the Board of Directors is going to say about this?" He sneaks a wink to Sherri when the Husband and Wife face each other. The rest of the kids, visibly shaken, slowly walk into the area and stand by the Christmas tree.
"See here, Mister," the Husband says, flushing with a bit of anger, "You have no right to come into our house and... and cause this kind of trouble. These kids haven't been a problem."
"Well, you don't have to worry about them being any trouble at all - I'll have the Police paddy wagon here in a few minutes and get them hauled out of here."
A couple of the kids could be seen starting to cry.
The wife raises her hand to her mouth and says, "Oh, John, no."
"Listen here, Mister", the once timid accountant faces the Director and starts to become quite aggressive, "You'll do nothing of the sort. As a matter of fact, my wife and I..." he turns, facing his wife, tears are in her eyes - he turns back to the Director - "My wife and I are adopting all of these children!"
"Are you crazy? You've got to be kidding!" The Director exclaims.
"We know exactly what we're doing - we are adopting these children. They're staying right here!"
"Are you absolutely sure?!" the Director asks through his teeth.
"Absolutely - Good day, Sir."
"Well, I never..." the Director turns on his heel and goes out the door, slamming it behind him.
All the kids surround the couple hugging them and crying for joy - all except Sherri.
Sherri goes to the door, opens it and quietly skirts out. The Director hadn't left and could be seen smiling on the porch, looking in the window at the happy cluster of crying folks and kids - he kneels down next to Sherri and hugs her. "Merry Christmas" he says.
"Merry Christmas!" she says, hugs him and runs back into the house to be with her new Mom and Dad and the rest of her family.
The next scene is at the orphanage. The Director is closing the entry door behind him, while balancing several wrapped boxes - Christmas presents with his other arm. The House Mother, Julia, meets him in the hallway.
"Did you find the children?"
"Yes, and they won't be coming back, but they'll be fine - they've found a home."
"How wonderful! Where did all these presents come from?"
"Well, I picked some up on the way back."
"How on earth could you afford to do that?" the puzzled House Mother asked, and then after a moment tilted her head sideways looking at Jim's jacket and noticed something missing where it should have been at his vest. "What time is it?" she asked, slowly.
"Uh... can't rightly say..." he looks around searching for a wall clock. "Where is that clock?"
"You sold your watch!"
After a bit of timid facial expressions, he shrugs his shoulders and says, "I'll be giving these gifts on behalf of my Dad - he would be honored. Help me hand these out to the children."
They go into the darkened dorm room, turn on the lights and call out, "Merry Christmas!"
All of the kids who had stayed, excited, jump out of their beds and run to the couple. He hands out the appropriate gifts to each of the children - some dolls, some wooden trucks and such. The kids, hugging them, take them back to heir beds, excited and smiling.
Jim and Julia turn out the lights and head back down the entrance hallway.
"Merry Christmas, Julia" the Director says, smiling, turning to leave.
"Merry Christmas, Jim." Julia smiles back at him.
Jim leaves through the front door, closing it behind him while Julia starts to head back for the dorm room.
Just then, she hears a knock at the door.
She goes back to the front door and cautiously opens it.
"Dear Madam," the lady at the door says. "I apologize for the late hour. But a few years ago, I had to leave my daughter here due to some difficult circumstances, but I've been able to make arrangements to pick her up and take her home - tonight - here are the papers."
"Oh, my goodness." says Julia.
And an excited little girls voice could be heard calling from the dorm room -
Songs for "A Family for Christmas" were "It's Gonna Be Another Crummy Christmas for us", and "Everyone Needs a Family".
When Hand in Hand closed its doors, a couple of the ODF leaders tried to help me find a niche in the Christian Artist Community and perhaps generate a livelihood from music.
This may sound strange, but that concept was foreign to me. First of all, the music I had been writing for a dozen years or so was designed to get the message of Jesus out in street terms. The idea of changing my lingo and using my music differently was something I had no idea how to deal with.
Even so, a friend from ODF determined to front the money to have me produce an album. As noted before, the band Branches provided the excellent musicianship and all had recording studio experience that allowed me to get the music tracks down in no time.
I had contacted several distributors. One of them had a good distribution network. He especially liked the album's concept, even though it didn't fit in the normal "Christian easy listening" format. They were getting excited about giving it a good push after about a month or so.
"Castles in Babylon" started to get a lot of local play in the Phoenix area and apparently the Chicago area as well. I started to get some fan mail.
A few weeks later, I got a devastating call from the distributor. They were going to have to close their doors due to some accounting issues that prevented them from catching up on their accounts. The Owner called me personally and offered his regrets. Apparently he'd had high hopes for the album.
At this point I had to make some decisions about how to take care of my family and was running out of time. Permanent Teaching positions were not available for the music field at that time, but I was able to do a short stint of teaching as a liberal arts substitute teacher, while looking for something more stable.
My old friend and roommate, Dean Mowen was working for a construction company and they needed some short term help and so he asked me to come on for a while.
My mechanical comprehension kicked in while reading the blueprints and I bid a job for the company and we were the successful bidder. I became the Project Manager and the net result was that the project was apparently handled so well that the company offered me a full-time position. My "attention to detail" was something they thought would be useful in redeveloping their tilt panel construction division. After completing a of couple dozen successful projects, Dean told me that he was going to start his own company and asked me to come on as VP.
I did and since that time, I've maintained my livelihood working in the construction industry.
Run, Maggie, Run
Who Made These Rules
Wounds of Life
Guest Guitarist Dan "The Man" Rutland
Shout to the Lord
Glory to Your Name
I've continued to write and record songs and some of the inspiring ideas have come from places I'd not expected and have been quite interesting, to say the least.
One of those interesting "projects" started about 2004. An old friend and associate, Sam Samolinski, who was one of the MC's for Hand in Hand programs, asked to have breakfast with me and wanted to run some ideas by me.
Sam had begun a recent journey into his past trying to sort through some difficult things in his history. He found that writing honest poetry, quite vivid and sometimes harsh, was helpful in articulating his feelings and were part of the Lord's healing process for him. He gave me a book of them.
After reading them, I honestly had to set them aside. They were so painful, I had a hard time trying to match the emotions of the lyrics with musical ideas. I would look at them every once in a while and try to think how to match the painful passions with music without being dishonest with the music. Frankly, I gave up for quite a while.
But I was prompted to look at them again just in case I was missing something.
It just so happened that I had written several musical textures in the past, but the inspiration for the lyrics never came. Then one day, as I was listening to them on a recording I'd made of the music, I picked up Sam's book of poems and reading them again, noticed some phrasing matches between the words of the poems and the music. After a bit the lyrics seemed to just lay into the music.
The music textures were somewhat sad, and so didn't seem like my normal writing. However, they did match Sam's things. Wow!
So, one by one, I began to record each of the songs that I'd had those textures for, and cataloged them as Sam's Songs.
The truth is that each of us, if we are honest, have had issues with our family of origin or some other traumatic experience that has perhaps crippled us.
Sam's songs offer amazing hope and opportunities to match our emotions with the words of his songs, allowing us to take the first steps towards our own healing.
It seems to me that part of Jesus' promise of abundant life as New Ones is partially encapsulated in the work (and that's what it is) that it takes to remember, recognize and disengage from the trauma and wrong-doings that have entangled us and keeps us from emotionally growing up. This process can only occur, it seems, when the Lord ordains it. And the ability to disengage is only possible due to the cross of Jesus (for a lot of reasons) and a sense of knowing who we are in Him - (Amazing Grace!).
It seems to be part of the promise, "You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free" - freed into real emotions of the real you that is loved dearly by the Savior. And we enjoy it best almost as children - and we feel fresh life - like children - God's children.
Sam's process in his songs helps us identify some of those traumas and gives us food for thought for our own issues.
Christmas Songs and Arrangements
Christmas songs of all types have been one of my most enjoyable types of music. Perhaps it is due to the sense of the reminder of the "Good News" of the season and a bunch of the appurtenances that come with it - spending good times with good friends and family.
A few years ago, my dear wife Kayelen got me some recording equipment that allowed me to put together and perform a bunch of Christmas things. We eventually sent these out to friends and folks as a "Christmas Card". If you haven't heard them yet, and would like to hear some free-wheeling songs of the season, grab your mittens and muffler and hang onto your hat - the sleigh ride is on !
For the nine years while Hand in Hand was going on, I also lead worship at Open Door Fellowship whenever they met. On Sunday mornings, we would set up folding chairs all facing the stage area and I lead worship from there. But the evenings were much more casual. We would rearrange the folding chairs into concentric circles and sing songs from the "Rejoice in the Jesus Always Instruction Manual", a wonderful chorus book published by Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California (Chuch Smith's church). Individuals would share something they were excited about in their relationship with God, and many New Ones shared stories of their week. We would share around the Lord's table every Sunday Night.
I continued to lead worship for another several years as well as worked with different worship groups as time went on. I still help out every once in a while at ODF.
Because of AWOL, I enjoyed the drama and impact of good theatre. One of the fun things that I later got to do was write Christmas music for the "children's" Christmas Plays at ODF. These were actually legit theatre with very hard-working and talented kids, practicing hard and delivering some magnificent scenes that were very moving and genuinely fun and memorable.
The Little Cake
The story of "The Little Cake" is set at Christmas, in a quiet little kingdom somewhere in Europe several centuries in the past. There is an annual Christmas feast, where the King chooses someone from his kingdom to sit beside him and preside over the festivities. The main characters in the play are spoiled rich children, street waifs, and a few adults.
The song "We're Going to a Feast" is sung from opposing parts of the stage by Spoiled Children and Waifs.
The young heroine of the story, upon the death of her parents related to them, now lives with one of the rich families, but endures the torment from spoiled children because she doesn't fit in with their upper crust group. Since her resources are quite limited, she has taken the time to bake a small cake (a wassail cake - also called a soul cake) in the fireplace to give to the King. The other children are going to try to impress the King with some jewels. They see the cake and tumble it in the fireplace ashes and then dance around her, pushing her and poking fun at her and sing "A Cake, a Cake, She'll Give the King a Cake!". They leave without her to go to the feast. She manages to get the cake out of the fireplace and generally gets it presentable, though some ashes have been burned into the crust that couldn't be removed.
One of the adult characters is seen as an old, bent over begger clothed from head to toe with an old hermit's hood and cloak. He spends some time with the street waifs and rejoices with them that they all will be going to the feast. They have apparently had no success in garnering food for their wassail bowls while singing ("Soul Cake") at the doorsteps of the well-to-do folks and so take some comfort that they will at least be able to eat that night at the feast. The beggar sings "Lullaby" while the waifs sing "What Child is This" (interlocking melodies).
The waifs head for the castle, but the beggar happens on the doorstep where the heroine lives and knocks on the door.
The young girl answers the door. The beggar asks for food. She is moved but says she doesn't have any extra food for the man. After another inquiry by the beggar, she pauses for a moment and looks back at the cake she has prepared for the King, sitting on a table nearby. Then she turns around and heads for the table, picks up the cake and returns to the beggar.
"I made this for...(and a quiet pause where she was going to say "for the King", but those words didn't come out). She then slowly presents it to the beggar.
The beggar eyes the cake and says, "Are you sure you want to give this to me?" The girl then sings the song, "a Gift of Love".
A Gift of Love can be no greater than the heart of the one who gives - And though the gift is small, if it reaches from the heart, Somehow I know it reaches the deepest parts of someone's need A Gift of Love -
The beggar stands there at the doorway, hunched over, and the little girl opens his hands to place the little cake in them. "Are you absolutely sure?", he asks.
She smiles and says "Yes".
At that moment, outside the door can be heard the voice of a Herald saying, "Your Majesty, we must leave right away to begin the festivities. Are we ready to leave?"
After a moment, the bent-over beggar, eyeing the heroine, then stands upright, throws back the hood and the beggar's cloak falls to the floor, revealing a majestically attired King - who then kneels and puts his arms around the young girl.
"Yes, we are ready - I have found the one that I want to sit beside me"
"The Little Cake" included the songs "A cake, a cake, she'll give the King A cake!", "We're going to a Feast", "Lullay/What Child is This" and the theme song "a Gift of Love".
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
The next project was a musical version of a marvelous story called "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever". It is set in the American Midwest, the time not being specifically clarified, but I think it must have been current at the time it was written. It is an absolutely charming treatise about a family of junior high school ragamuffins, the Herdmans, and the adventures related to the annual Christmas Pageant. It is narrated by a young girl (Kristi (Potter) Caggiano).
The song "The Herdman Kids are Juvenile Delinquents" was the opening song of the play where the words, "and one of the reasons church is such a nice place is because it's where the Herdman Kids would never shown their face" was expressed as the sentiment of a crowd of junior-highers on the school grounds.
The main female adult character (played by Patti Messner) had recently accepted the responsibility for doing the pageant, since the lady who normally did it was incapacitated that year. Her enthusiasm is evident, though pensive, as she discusses it with her husband (Rand Mozingo) during a Saturday morning breakfast. As her confidence grows they sing "It's Gonna Be the Best Christmas Pageant Ever in the History of Pageantry!"
She schedules tryouts and expects the kids who have been in the pageant for years will be taking the parts they've had in the past. What she doesn't know is that all of the kids who had those parts in the past had been threatened by the Herdman's not to try out (the Herdmans, who would routinely confiscate the lunches of kids at school and had heard that churches have cookies and other treats wanted to feast on the church goodies).
The Herdmans had never set a foot inside a church before and certainly had no idea of how to handle themselves in that arena. The drama continues to grow due to some mishaps that continue during each rehearsal. The Herdmans girl (Joy Thrall) was smoking in the bathroom and a church goer seeing the smoke coming out of the bottom edge of the doors screams and calls the Fire Department. Other delays and incomplete rehearsals were caused by the Herdman's asking questions about the whole Christmas Story deal, the answers to which all of the previous pageantry kids knew by heart. The net result being that the pageant is never completely rehearsed. And the four Herdman kids find themselves showing up on the evening of the pageant, winging the program with only a general idea of what the Christmas Story was all about.
The toughest person in the Herdman family was the girl who was to play the part of Mary. The Herdmans all showed up for the performance barely in time (the director didn't even have a chance to talk with them before the program had to begin) and headed onto the church stage. "Mary" looked a bit confused and nervous and a bit unkempt - certainly not what the church was used to. She found herself almost in a daze on the stage, as she listened to the collage of words of the Christmas Carols being sung by the children's choir and knelt by the manger. Her brothers, as the three wise men, had brought a ham from their own home, since they had no idea of what to bring to Jesus, and laid it by the manger.
"Joy to the World" was being sung by the youth choir, and the words "let every heart prepare Him room" grasped Mary's thoughts. Quietly (yet broadcast to the audience) she started saying things to Jesus like, "You are a King, and you deserved to be born in a palace - but you accepted being born in a stable." Short pause - then somewhat pensively - "Can you do that with people, too? Can you accept me the way I am?"
She then sang, "Your Kind of Love" (interwoven with the carols being sung by the rest of the youth choir) and as it was ending, she re-iterated the words "let every heart prepare Him room", then quietly bowed her head, doing that in her own heart, as the pageant ended.
The attendees who were exiting the Pageant all commented on how this program was so fresh and different from those in the past. The characters seemed more real somehow.
And unbeknownst to them, something had changed in the Herdman Kids.
At the end of the program, the adult director and others joined her as she sang, "It Really was the Best Christmas Pageant Ever in the History of Pageantry."
Songs from "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" were "It's Gonna be the Best", "The Herdman Kids are Juvenile Delinquents", and "Jesus, Could you Love me", along with other incidental music.
The next one that was tackled was adapted from "The Bird's Christmas Carol". We entitled our musical adaptation "Noblese Oblige".
The setting again seems to be contemporary and perhaps in the Northeast. It is Christmas Eve and carolers are outside singing joyfully in the neighborhood of a family whose Mom is in the process of delivering a girl-child. She names the baby girl Carol in honor of the occasion.
As Carol (Amber Messner) ages, it is clear to all that she is hampered by ill health, but still manages to sparkle around the people she meets. Some of her favorite people are some kids who don't necessarily live in her neighborhood, but like to play in a park nearby. The Ruggles are kind children and when they know Carol needs rest will play quiet games. There are several of them, and it's clear from their attire they are of modest means, whereas Carol's family is well off.
Carol has a couple of older brothers. One is a few years older than she and one is quite a bit older. He's enlisted in the Military. The older brother (Todd Thurman) is the narrator for the play.
On Carol's coming tenth birthday, which is Christmas of course, the family prepares a huge celebration. The older brother is able to get a week's military leave and arrives during the week prior to the party and Carol talks with him about something she has in mind.
"I would like to invite the Ruggles kids from the other block." When he asks why, she sings the song, "That's what Christmas is".
The words go:
Each of us are given a few days at best To share the blessings we have with others not so blessed And so we should remember above all the rest That's what Christmas is - Isn't that what our Lord did when He came to Earth from heaven? He reached out to others not at all like Himself For He himself was holy, but he came to sinful man To bestow a Heavenly Gift upon the Earthly Man To lift us out of dust and clay and call us Heavenly Ones To have us live in His House and call us His Own Sons And so we should remember, when all else is done - That's what Christmas is - that's what Christmas is -
And then she spoke the end of the song -
"And I can't help but believe that's what He'd have us do - With the few days we are given, we should be blessings, too."
So the Ruggles kids (from the other neighborhood) were invited. One of the fun songs and dances performed by those kids was "Manners".
Manners - where are your manners - To be socially acceptable, you've got to have just perfect table manners!
Mrs. Ruggles (Kristi Potter) was standing her kids in a row and rehearsing the right things to do when one has been invited for a nice evening like the party. After many minutes and the seemingly endless list of requirements, the youngest girl sang" I'm so cram full of manners now, I think I'm gonna bust!"
If you've read the Bird's Christmas Carol, you know how the story ends. If not and you're interested you'll chase it down.
Songs that were in Noblese Oblige were "That's the Way it Was", "Manners!"
and "That's What Christmas Is" along with incidental music. There is also a narration of the Christmas Story by Peter Ruggles (Aaron Messner).
Play "Your Kind of Love" Original Cast recording (Joy (Thrall) Stowell)
Play "Best Christmas Pageant" Exit Music
Play Narration leading into Pageant
Play "Bless us with a Child" Original Cast recording (Jenni Mowen)
Play "Everyone Needs a Family" Practice track
I have continued to stay involved in music on several levels. I co-wrote a play with Peter Robb called A.W.O.L. (Angels With Out Leave). This was a fully staged adult cast show with a bunch of Hand in Hand musicians involved in either the "Heavenly Choir" or other angel parts. The dances were choreographed by Patrese (Scheibli) Collins with Sue DeForest assisting, and costuming was by Lisa Canaan. Rand Mozingo played the part of Gabriel singing a beautiful "Don't be Afraid, Mary". After Gabriel left, the young, innocent Mary (Jamie Thompson) was excited to get the news to Joseph - her line, "What a surprise for a man who wants to start a family!" always garnered a lot of laughs.
The general nature of the story was that select angels from around the universe had been called together for a special purpose. However, due to the somewhat inept leadership of the Director (Dave Chatburn), the majority of them never found out what the "event" was. So they were totally surprised when after their magnificent "Lauds" in the fields to the shepherds, they heard for the first time from one in their ranks when proclaiming it to the shepherds, about the Creator's Good News to the planet Earth. They then followed invisibly to the stable and saw the baby in the manger, realizing who He was. Several gasps and angelic eyebrows were lifted, trying to guess what the Father had in mind.
One of the lead characters, Heralde (Heidi), was called from a small planet and tried as hard as she could to be involved, but her talents didn't match her heart. She couldn't dance, couldn't sing and she actually had tendencies to stumble with her language articulation a bit. During one of the choir practices her many attempts to find the correct pitch were all in vain, but with a desire to be loud in her "singing", eventually prompted the Director to suggest," softer... softer..." until he finally said - "actually maybe just mouth the words", as kindly as he could.
Two jaded angels who'd apparently served way too much time on the planet earth had become a bit sarcastic during the centuries they were there and after a couple of noticeably bad "music" phrases from Heralde looked at one another and proclaimed, "Hark the angel, Heralde, sings" bringing some good natured laughter from the rest of the choir, but clearly was the last straw for Heralde. After the rehearsal was over, she determined to pack her bags and leave.
Eventually Gabriel was able to track her down. Heralde reiterated her list of inept giftings and wondered why the Creator would even have her at the special program. After a bit of kind chastising, Gabriel noted that it's not what kinds of things we do to impress God or others that prove our worth. "It's our trust and loving loyalty to the Creator that He calls us to. Perhaps he has something different in mind for you."
He did. And without giving up too much of the details of the story, the last scene of the play was at the spotlighted stable with Mary and Joseph and the humble shepherds adoring the Child, while the other angels sung at a distance. As the spotlight enlarged, it took in, above the stable, the meek angel Heralde who then spread her newly endowed majestic angel wings in blessing over the stable and the Christ Child.
The play ended with this scene while the Angels sang, "Praise the Lord of Sabaoth, His Mercy Endures Forever."