Tuesday, 6 December brought more than the usual panic-buying of Christmas presents and comestibles. Kingston Gardens Corps (Vic.), with its regular Tuesday community gathering for people with physical and mental disabilities, witnessed the launch of the King’s Tone Choir.
Approximately 80 people, including family members and well-wishers, gathered for the Tuesday club’s Christmas break-up. Christmas karaoke involves a drummer boy, guitarists and wholesale distribution of tambourines and timbrels. ‘Feliz navidad,’ ‘Come on, ring those bells, everybody sing’ – Jesus’ birthday is a time of laughter and gentle humour.
There is a touch of Australiana, too, when Major David Brunt shares a favoured if venerable poem, 'from,' he smiles, 'Henry Lawson, one of Australia’s great poets, who described Christmas as being about friendship’. The Fire at Ross’ Farm tells how love surpassed class hatreds, sectarian loathing and the economic divide when a squatter’s son falls in love with a selector’s daughter.
As with the Capulets and Montagues, the two clans aren’t overly fond of each other until the squatter, touched by exigencies and the human condition (and perhaps a divine prompting) helps extinguish a bushfire that threatens to destroy his neighbour’s selection: ‘two grimy hands in friendship joined, and it was Christmas Day.’
A duet shares a sweet Maori gospel hymn, telling God that ‘you have given life to me’, and then it’s time for the King’s Tone Choir’s public debut. Choir leader Angie has faithfully taken her charges through 10 weeks of rehearsal and choreography, aided by her husband and accompanist, Justin.
The results bring smiles to faces and motion to the feet and fingers of those listening.
‘O happy day, O happy day…’
‘Mary’s Boy Child, Jesus Christ, was born on Christmas Day…’
‘Jesus loves me, this I know…’
The hardest heart, the scroogiest Scrooge, the grinchiest Grinch would perhaps find a little light dispelling their pre-Christmas humbugs when faced with the joy expressed by people with severe and genuine disabilities, ongoing disadvantages and disproportionately hard lives.
The choir is a success, high fives, hugs and handshakes ensue.
Choirleader and keyboardist reconverge with guitar to share a song by Kasey Chambers, popularised in a duet with Paul Kelly.
‘I still cry for baby Jesus,’ they harmonise. ‘When I speak he hears my words…when I’m lost he’ll come and find me.’
The tender country twang gives way to a chat with Major Narelle Jacobsen and a visit from Santa (aka Major Charlie Jacobsen) on symbolism and ‘the true meaning of Christmas’.
People happily ‘ooooh’ and ‘aaaahh’ as Santa pulls out symbols out of a well-stocked swag of goodies, such as a fir tree, a star, a wreath, a candy cane and an angel, etc., and Narelle explains the various qualities they represent (respectively the cited icons evoke constancy, hope, eternal love, pastoral care, and peace and good will).
As musicians go, the King’s Tone Choir may never grace the stage at Channel Nine’s Carols by Candelight event. But that’s not the point, nor the intent. The light in the choristers’ eyes, the passion and even urgency of their songs, the sheer, merry elan of Christmas. It’s what fuels their pre-Christmas Christmas meal.
It’s what gives them hope.