Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Concerts

Every December my family goes to some kind of Christmas concert together. We all look forward to it greatly, even if the concerts sometimes turn out to be terrible.

Actually, attending phenomenally-bad musical productions is my family's absolute favorite thing to do together. About 12 years ago, for example, we were required to sit through all two hours and thirty minutes of The Gristmill Pageant in Tooele Utah, which you did pronounce incorrectly unless you live in this state. It was an entirely lip-synced presentation about the founding of Tooele Utah, which is not something about which many people have ever wondered.

The play revolved around a very old grandma (read: a young woman in a grey wig) sitting in a rocking chair at a family reunion, telling all of her grandchildren about how Tooele came to be. The lights would periodically flash to center stage where the ensemble cast would dance and lip-sync the story grandma was telling.

Of note, one of the children performers, a young girl, in a teenage-angsty voice, proclaimed at the beginning of the play, "Grandma, Iiiiiiiii'm bored. When do aaaaall the cute BOYS get here?!"

She asked her grandma this. AT THEIR FAMILY REUNION.

Also, my family came out of this play with two new favorite songs that are sung to this day with some regularity at family gatherings. One of them involved a dozen plump women singing in high-pitched excessively-vibratoed voices, "WHAT DO WASHER WOMEN REALLY WASH?!?! A WOMAN'S JOB IS TO WASH. HER. MAAAAAAAAAAN!" And then the women chased the men around the stage. FOR TEN MINUTES.

The other song was sung at the finale by the entire cast. The only lines any of us can remember them lip-syncing, as they swayed back-and-forth, arm-in-arm, were "in Tooele there is music. In Tooele it is clean. In Tooele there are people." And then shaking their fingers at the audience "YOU REALLY OUGHT TO FIND OUT WHAT WE MEAN!" The last line was repeated three times before being sung slowly one final time as the cast went into a vibrant hand-jazz ending pose.

Also, I'm being generous when I say the play was lip-synced. The performers didn't even try to mouth the words being spoken or sung. They just dramatically moved their arms and opened and closed their mouths like fish out of water.

(And oh my gosh. I just googled it and found out that someone thought it valuable to upload onto Youtube a very poor-quality 2007 video of part of one song in the production. I don't remember this song, and it may not have been a part of the 2003 version we witnessed, but here it is anyway.)

For many years, the December concert we attended as a family was Michael McLean's The Forgotten Carols, which you most definitely know if you have ever been a Mormon for even a day. This is a musical wherein Michael McLean takes great liberties with Bible stories and sings them from the perspectives of the people who never got to tell their side. Like the innkeeper who really regrets his decision to turn Mary and Joseph away. Or the shepherd who fell asleep and forgot to see the star. Or Mary's friend who babysat Jesus once and remembers that he was "soft and warm." 

(I'm not kidding about this. Look it up.)

We generally liked going to this concert because it was relatively well done. But at the end of the musical Michael McLean always performs this song wherein the audience members are required to link arms, sway back-and-forth, and politely sing "we can be together forever someday (in heaven)."

Family relationships have been nearly destroyed over who had to sit on the end next to a stranger at these concerts. 

So to avoid the uncomfortable arm-linking experience, this year Bob and Cathie chose some kind of concert put on by an old western country group.

Let me be clear: I have no use for this kind of music in my life. That said, I can appreciate talented performers, even if their talent makes me sad inside.

These performers were unbelievably talented musicians. And, because this was a country music group, the concert covered the following topics:

1. God.

2. America.

3. Land.

4. JESUS.

5. The Republican Party

6. JESUS!

7. Guns.

And not necessarily in that order.

The concert was going on swimmingly when the oldest man in the entire world wearing a belt buckle you could see from space WITHOUT YOUR GLASSES walked onto the stage and began reciting a very long poem about America while a tattered American flag was lowered behind him.

The poem was heartfelt and sweet and it was delivered well. 

And as the man finished the last line, something about may America always live in glory something or other, there was an eruption in the 2,000-member audience so loud that it woke up all of your babies. IN BERLIN.

The row of large bearded men in cowboy hats seated directly behind me stood and began screaming, "BOOYA 'MERICA!!!" while simultaneously pumping their fists in the air.

And what was my reaction? What did I do while people cheered for America?

You guys. I ROLLED MY EYES.

And then I suddenly realized that at some point I have become the kind of person who rolls his eyes when people cheer for America!

I MIGHT AS WELL BE A TERRORIST!

And this was confusing because y'all. I love America, too.

AND I DON'T EVEN SAY Y'ALL.

Then it occurred to me that the reason I was annoyed was because I just automatically assumed, due to the place and tone of cheering, that this row behind me was celebrating a version of America quite different than the one I think is awesome. Which, admittedly, might have been unfair. For all I know, these people were cheering for America because this country is so great that it was finally able to murder Glee.

Then Cathie distracted me by asking if I wanted a snack and then opened her purse, which was filled nearly to the top with Trident and lemons.

~It Just Gets Stranger

36 comments:

  1. By the way, since Eli kept pretty cryptic about the correct pronunciation but wrote the word about 1,000 times, Tooele is pronounced "Two-will-la." Sadly, this travesty is NOT the most awful place name in Utah. I think that honor goes to LeVan, chosen because the city is in the exact center of the state and it is "navel" spelled backward. Groan.

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    1. And it is not pronounced TOOL-ee, which is what I hear most often. Oh and Mantua is not pronounced MAN-two-ah, it's pronounces MAN-away. Because we hate Ts here.

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    2. Unless it's to add a T where there isn't one. My cousin is Kelsy, but people call her Keltsy.

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    3. My favorites--
      Hurricane, pronounced Hurrihcuhnn.
      Monticello, pronounced Montih-sello
      Panguitch, pronounced like penguin, with an itch tacked onto the end.
      Uintah, pronounced You-in-tah

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  2. Next year go the the Lower Lights. Best Christmas show in Utah and you get to keep your personal space entact.

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  3. Mantua is another one of those funny town names. It's pronounced Man-uh-way. Toole is easy!

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  4. A) My hubby is from Tooele. It sounds like it's for good reason he never mentioned that play.

    B) I used to work for Temple Square Hospitality. One night Deseret Book held this huge function for all their best selling people - Hillary Weeks, Lloyd Newell, etc. Michael Mclean was there. He was a tool. The best words that came to mind after serving His Majesty dinner were Douchebag, Diva, and a couple other I'm not totally proud of. Since that night, I refuse to listen to a single thing he's written, produced, sang, or has his name on.

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    1. Admittedly I've never seen that while play of Forgotten Carols, but that was mostly due to my dislike for his voice. I can stand some of his songs of they are sung by other artists, but he is nothing special.

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    2. I stand corrected... asked hubby if he's seen the Gristmill pageant. "Yeah, we used to go every year! It's bad. Like really bad. Embarrassing."

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    3. Kina! You need to ask him if my portrayal is accurate! I'm wondering how much I have exaggerated it in my mind.

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    4. He says "it's just about that bad. I only went for the girls." I then asked for clarification, girls in the play or the audience? And he got this far away look in his eye and then shook his head and mumbled as he walked away like he'd had some terrible flashback he was trying to ward off.

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  5. The Bar J are awesome! I cried through the flag poem. I love 'merica too!

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  6. Every year, we go to my sister-in-law's house for Christmas. Every year, since the kids were little, she unsuccessfully tries to get the children to put on a Christmas play. One year, she let them put on an impromptu musical. These children were indoctrinated in the Veggie Tales videos, so we were serenaded by Christian songs sung by and about vegetables. To this day, when one of my daughters is looking for something, still sing "Oh where is my hairbrush?", a song about a cucumber upset that the tomato gave his hairbrush to the peach because the cucumber didn't have hair and the peach had fuzz. It still makes me smile.

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    1. Veggie Tales songs (especially Silly Songs with Larry) are almost as useful as Disney songs in everyday situations.

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  7. At least Tooele and Mantua are spelled weird. No Utah place name pronunciation is as bad as Hurricane. Which rhymes with neighboring city La Verkin.

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    1. Which rhymes with the way we pronounce Hurricane, the storm is HUR-uh-KANE, the town is HUR-uh-kin. And for the love of all that's Utah why do we pronounce Hooper as HUPP-er?

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    2. When I moved to Utah, I was told that Hooper should sound like hooker with a P.

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    3. Well that's charming and fairly accurate.

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  8. I'm not typically one to be a buzz kill, but I lived two years in Tooele and loved every second. I never attended the show of which you speak, but the fact that it continues on and that so many people are involved in the production and attend the show demonstrates that it is of value to that community. I don't think it fair to mock something of such high value to others. I hope you'll have a moment, much like your America moment in the show you attended this year, to reflect on your treatment of that experience.

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    1. Probably best experienced as a Tooelian while mystifying and baffling to outsiders. I didn't read it as making fun of Tooele as much as making fun of the experience.

      (totally legitimate spoiler: "Tooelians" are a majorly evil alien race in the new Star Wars movie, but have no actual connection to Tooele, Utah, as Tooele hadn't been founded at the time of the events depicted in the movie)

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    2. I live in Tooele county, and while I love it here, I am not surprised to hear this description of the Gristmill Pageant. Tooele/Grantsville (where I live)/Stansbury are charming, and yes, tight-knit and awesome! But let's be real, the Tooele Walmart is right up there with the Price Walmart, as far as the mix "characters" who shop there...

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    3. Brandon, isn't Star Wars depicted in the Future??? So wouldn't Tooele have already existed/been an ancient civilization??

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    4. "A long time ago in a galaxy far far away."

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  9. Y'all are weird out there in Utah, I don't care what strange-sounding town it is.

    And, yes, I say y'all.

    I don't (always) wear a cowboy hat, but when I do if you roll your eyes at me I'll slap the silly off that face of yours. Taking care, of course, not to muss your perfect hair.

    BOOYAH!

    'MERICA!

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  10. It's been a good 10 minutes and I'm still laughing at this, "Then Cathie distracted me by asking if I wanted a snack and then opened her purse, which was filled nearly to the top with Trident and lemons." Hashtag MomGoals

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    1. Me too. Cathie is my hero.

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  11. You say "y'all" more than anyone I've ever met who doesn't even say "y'all." #murica

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  12. As someone who lived through performing in that pageant every year when I was a teenager I just want to say... I am so impressed!!! You really nailed the words to those songs. I have a CD with all of the songs if you ever want to brush up on the rest of them.

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    1. Laura!!!! Could you please send me a copy somehow?!?

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    2. I can definitely do that in repayment of all the joy the stranger blog has brought to my life. I'm flying into Utah tonight and I won't rest until I've torn my parents' house apart to find that CD.

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    3. Please keep me posted on this! I have never been so excited for anything!

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    4. Please keep me posted on this! I have never been so excited for anything!

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  13. You forgot to mention....Kurt Bestor. That concert was amazing! And the gum is not Trident...it is Eclipse. :) I always keep a gum purse handy. Helpful! Look for the word....there....it may need to be changed to "their". :) just saying. :)
    Xoxoxo

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    1. Good catch, Cathie -- it's okay for a mom to point out the incorrect usage of there...

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  14. How does the play compare to one of our (yours and mine) favorite movies, Waiting for Guffman? I totally pictured those scenes with Corky St. Claire in them!

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