Director hoping for more involvement from younger crowd
PORT GREVILLE – It’s a local holiday tradition as familiar as Santa Claus himself, but director Judy Wheaton said this year could be the last for the community’s Living Christmas Tree.
A gradual decline in participants has led Wheaton to wonder if the 24-year tradition has reached the end of the road.
“I want to encourage everyone to come this year and hear it, because it could very well be our last one,” said Wheaton, during a practice session this week. “We’re hoping to go through for our 25th, which would be next year, but I’m telling people if they want to come this year, to please come and get a seat early because we’re hoping to pack the place.”
Normally the “tree,” which is a group of community singers performing in the formation of a Christmas tree, features 45-50 people. This year that number is down to 40 participants, due to the loss of members either through death or from people moving away from the community.
Another challenge is in finding new musical numbers to perform, in an age where no new Christmas music is being made, according to Wheaton.
“People are coming to me now and saying this kicks off their Christmas season, and they’d be disappointed if it didn’t happen,” she said. “So we’re going to try it this year. From all reports and requests, it seems like everybody wants it.”
The Living Christmas Tree began as a fundraiser for the local ecumenical Sunday School, which has since ceased operation. The two-day event now serves as the main fundraiser for its venue, Grace United Church.
The program is designed to be enjoyed by the whole family.
“I wish more young people would come out,” she said. “When they hear the word ‘church,’ they panic and run in the opposite direction.”
This year’s program, titled “And the World is One,” will feature a mixture of humour and serious moments, and a mixture of traditional Christmas music, old favourites, and two pieces new to the program.
Wheaton guaranteed that audiences would enjoy this year’s show.
“In case it is the last Tree, I want it to be the biggest and best Tree,” she said.
The Living Christmas Tree will be held at Grace United Church on Dec. 8-9.