Costumes came out of their plastic boxes, the children chose their parts, rehearsals took place during Young Christians on Sunday mornings during Advent when the children sang together, the band practised the music Lesley had chosen and suddenly the annual St Mary and St Giles church Nativity play was here again.
The play this year was called 'Turning the sad into glad' and was written in rhyme. It was narrated very confidently by one of the boys, the other children only had to move about to illustrate the story of the nativity (so no lines to learn) and sing the carols and songs. SMSG church band has accompanied the Nativity play for several years now and while most of the music changes each year, at least one piece 'Away in a manger' is always used and the tradition is for the children to sing the first verse accompanied only (gently) by the electric guitar. The whole script and all the words for the carols were projected onto a big screen (thank you Ray) however the young narrator spoke so clearly no one needed to read the script.
The band played:
- Frere Jacques (with words written for the play)
- Little Donkey
- A Starry night (interspersed with narration between verses)
- Riding out across the desert
- Jesus came at Christmastime (using the Hebrew tune for 'Jesus put this song into our hearts')
- Away in a manager
With the child performers ranging in age from 2 up to 19 (plus one of the mother's of a band member dressed as a shepherd for the very youngest sheep) the Nativity play provides the children with an opportunity to sing and mime in front of an audience, using music as a confidence builder (some were quite nervous ahead of the play). The costumes were made in 1992 and have been used by generations of SMSG children to illustrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas time.
The SMSG church children's nativity play on Sunday 20th December was the fifth nativity play to be performed in the church this week, as for the first time Russell Street First school children had brought their year group nativity plays to the church the previous Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings on the invitation of Fr Ross as their school hall could not comfortably accommodate all the parents. Then on Friday morning SMSG church school held their Christmas service and nativity play in the church during the morning, when deputy headteacher Mrs Noon played the newly restored Willis organ to accompany the hymns (and was apparently very pleased with how it sounds). It is estimated that about 1,500 people (children, parents and grandparents) came into the church during the week for the 5 Nativity plays, as the church was full for all the school performances. The organ builders installed the new Waldhorn pipes in the Swell on Monday and Tuesday, they fitted the final tuning and regulating of pipes around all the performances and rehearsals.
Thank you Sue, May, Jane, Ray, Jenny, Andrea and Lesley for organising the nativity play, sorting costumes, guiding the children and choosing (and conducting) the music this year, to the band for playing, the children for participating so enthusiastically and parents, grandparents and friends for their support.
Words by Anna Page, photos by John Page