Developing a Painless Pageant

BC Radio One has been running a survey to find out when people think it would be okay to play Christmas music, and a lot of the on-air replies seem to think that December 24 would be just fine.

I suspect it’s not that people actually know the difference between Advent and Christmas, but that they are tired of the relentless merchandising in stores and on television.

Churches, however, are still expected to retell the Christmas Story, and one of the traditional forms of this exercise is the Christmas Pageant.

If you’ve ever tried to come up with the appropriate costumes, devise a slightly new way to tell the familiar story, get the kids organized, the lines learned and the whole thing fitted into the context of a Christmas Eve Church Service, you know that it’s possible for the stage management issues to suck all the joy out of the event.

The churches of Dawson unite each year for a Christmas Pageant service on Christmas Eve and hold it at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, since that’s the largest venue. More than a decade ago, the congregations decided that there had to be some way to make that hour-long service less stressful, while still getting out the message of the Christmas Gospel.

The method chosen was to turn the live pageant portion of the service into a slide show. Write a script early on, decide on a theme for the year, shoot the pictures weeks or even months ahead of time, and run the show along with narration and carols, midway through the service.

When this all began, the folks behind the show were still using real slides and projectors. These days the photographs are digital, and the show is a PowerPoint slide presentation which requires only one projector instead of two, as that tricky crossover fade control is included in the software.

Over the years the pilgrims coming to Bethlehem for the Blessed Birth have been straightforward Bible characters, tourists drawn to the Klondike, firefighters working in the hills and stampeders looking for gold.

Settings have ranged from mining claims to historic buildings and the insides of the various churches.

One year the sight of shepherds with their prop sheep meeting angels beside the Mary Hanulik Gardens stopped traffic on Front Street in early September.

The photos have been shot any time from midsummer to late fall. Last year the organizers took a chance and went with a Yukon winter theme, hoping for decent weather and reasonable temperatures on November 15. They got what they needed and did the shoot at the Betts’ home on Mary McLeod Road.

This year, with the permission of Parks Canada, the Robert Service Cabin provided most of the scenery for the familiar tale. Pictures were taken on September 25, the day before we got our first snowfall.

The poet’s porch became the setting for the manger scene, and angels gathered in the bush behind the cabin to greet the shepherds.

If you want to see how it turned out, complete with a selection of blooper shots, you’ll have to be at St. Paul’s on the evening of December 24. Come early. This service is always standing room only by the time it begins.

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top