Singing Christmas Tree

It was the mid-1960’s when the Beatles were big and the music was loud and catchy — “Yellow Submarine,” “Wild Thing,” “A Groovy Kind of Love,” “California Dreamin’,” and “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Music had a snappy beat back then and was easy to dance to. But to me, there was nothing like slow dancing to When a Man or My Girl and slow dancing with someone who held me tightly.

It was to this backdrop of Beatle mania and British bands that First Baptist Church brought forth in the city of Cleveland a Singing Christmas Tree. Girls in seventh through twelfth grades well rehearsed in soprano, second soprano, and alto, wearing long green dresses wrapped in tinsel, green mittens, holding candles that twinkled in the tinsel, filled a specially constructed stand, and sang songs like “Do You Hear What I Hear?,” “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel,” and “Little Drummer Boy.” This presentation was led by Rev. Milton Burd, who is still to this day at First Baptist. He sang and helped with my father’s funeral 3 years ago and my mother’s funeral almost 3 months ago. As Milton sat in my mother’s living room before the service he asked, “Do you remember what song you had me sing for your dad?” “Yes,” I answered, “‘Little Drummer Boy.’ It was his favorite song, and it’s not just for Christmas; its words tell of giving of yourself, giving your all.”

It was fall semester of my senior year in high school, and I was in the very first Singing Tree; the effort went on for several years after that. I sang second soprano and stood on the bottom row … where it was safe.

The Tree was a part of the Cleveland Christmas Parade that winter. I seem to remember there was a problem. The stand was too high to clear the electric wires, and the top persons had to climb down and someone had to lift the wire so our float could pass under.

I notice now four decades afterward that we got press in the Jackson Daily News. I didn’t know then how phenomenal that was, but I do know now. It was one thing to be in the local Bolivar Commercial, but the STATE paper — wow! That was big ink!

I remember those girls, our extra part rehearsals, how our voices blended, how lovely the sopranos were, and how we sang our hearts out. Those days were beautiful days and the memories are sweet and precious.

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