The hall sounded as if there was the gathering of the clans of chipmunks.
The children could be heard twittering behind the curtain. The faces of a few of the more audacious ones occasionally peeked from the side of the closed stage curtains; if they were lucky enough to spy their parents, they called out.
A scream rent the air in two. One of the girls had sneaked a look – and, seeing the sea of faces below her, was stricken with a dire case of stage fright. Imagine the embarrassment of the parents of this little girl, when they were called over the PA system and asked to go to the back of the hall.
The tot, globules of tears travelling down her cheeks, insisted that she was “too shy” to sing in front of the “thousand people” present. Until that moment, her parents had not known that she had been singled out on account of her perfect Maltese diction.
The show must go on, so the teacher allowed the child to sit on her mother’s lap “for a bit”, hoping that she would pluck up enough courage to join the group later.
The procession of Mary, Joseph, and assorted shepherds had already begun moving up the aisle towards the stage. The hindquarters of the donkey were apparently a day late and a dollar short; the back legs kept moving out of sync with the front ones, and the font legs appeared to be trying to kick the back legs.
The audience sniggered – and the donkey suddenly became a dromedary. “She stinks!” exclaimed the child who had by then been pulled out of her costume. It was a toss-up between the two girls’ mothers to see which of them was the ore embarrassed – but at least, the front half of the donkey was still anonymous.
Of course, by the time the concert had reached the end, the rumour mill had ground far faster, and far more coarsely, than that of God.
The main party, accompanied by hordes of angels (the choir) who had streamed out from the sides of the stage took their positions inside the carefully-marked circles. All went according to plan, until “Gabriel” forgot his lines. “Hey, I’ve got news for you!” he said to the audience. “Christ, Our Saviour, is born in Bethlehem!” The audience, however, only heard the first sentence – they were doubled up in laughter at the second one.
The teacher and her assistants thought they were going to have a collective fainting fit. Things could only get better – or so they thought.
A pool of liquid (unseen by the audience) was quietly but surely collecting at the feet of one of the shepherds. The one beside him pushed him away; and since he wasn’t expecting this, he tumbled against the little girl next to him, who, in her turn, toppled her neighbour, domino-style.
One of the assistants rushed out to take the boy who had wet his pants inside – but this was his first ever fifteen minutes of fame and he wasn’t giving it up easily. There was a slight scuffle, during which he bit the young lady. She yelped, and then lifted him bodily up and took him offstage.
The little girl who had refused to take part in the concert, and had been fast asleep in her mother’s arms, suddenly woke up and, seeing her friends on the boards, for some reason thought that her turn had come. She yawned, rubbed her eyes, and began singing her part.
The teacher grabbed her chance… and going down to the girl, led her gently up the few steps. The closing notes of the song, thought the teacher, could well close the concert.
But this was not to be. The parents all got up to give the team a standing ovation, and the teacher had to open the curtains again and again for no less than four curtain calls – complete with the children who had left the stable scene in the proceedings.
Those of us who were there know it was the best Christmas concert we have ever attended.
Stories of an American couple's adventures in Italy
'Ghandi x' Nghid' (I have something to say) is a blog that focuses on current affairs and personal reflections - Andrew Azzopardi