The Singing Christmas Tree!
I actually was first exposed to the “Singing Christmas Tree” phenomenon in the ’70s in Santa Rosa, CA.
My Mom sang in a choir for Christian Life Center, a large Assembly of God church there, and they had the same sort of setup with a huge “Christmas tree” that the choir would climb into for an elaborate Christmas pageant.
There would be a play with a gospel message along with the musical numbers. My dad worked on lighting.
I remember they were big on special effects: one year they had a separate light circuit in the shape of a cross that they would illuminate for the grand finale, and who could forget the angel ziplining into the “tree” for the high note at the end of the last number!
All the sopranos vied to be the soloist in the very highest position on the tree, since that was the “angel,” who got to wear wings and a halo and be spotlighted for the final song.
Then I moved to Minnesota and got involved with a Singing Christmas Tree production myself, while attending Bloomington Assembly of God (later renamed to Cedar Valley Church).
Since I don’t mind heights, I had fun climbing into my perch high in the structure, although not taking the coveted “angel solo” spot at the very top. I was usually two or three rows below the top.
I found out that it’s hard work being in the Christmas tree! We would do 12 performances, and countless practices and rehearsals. It took a lot out of you!
And standing in the “tree” for long hours was hard on a feller of advancing age. One of us would sit on a special stool he’d made just for this purpose.
People sometimes got lightheaded and fainted, or had to be helped out of the tree. One time I had to gingerly come down because I was about to pass out myself.
One year I was the narrator, and sometimes I sang in small ensembles or trios. It was all pretty exciting, especially that one time someone stole my mike the year I was the narrator!
There were a lot of backstage pranks and antics, like abnormally spicing the food actors were to eat during the play.
I would come home after a series of performances, lie on the couch, and gasp in combined pain and relief as my wife would gently massage my feet.
Later I gave up the spotlight to work behind the scenes in the video control booth or lighting booth.
Googling for “Singing Christmas Tree,” I am surprised to learn that there are churches still doing this kind of production. But, for good or ill, we’re not doing it anymore!