... Mary was a rap artist.
No, I never knew that either.
I have today sat through two performances of no 2/3's nativity (no 4's was last week) as I took mil and me ma in the afternoon and everyone else was going this evening.
Over the many many years I have been watching nativities I have seen all sorts I can tell you: from a ridiculously over the top one at the nursery no 3 attended, which featured Father Christmas. lots of toys, fairies, elves, mice and oh yes, that staple of the Christmas story Mary and Joseph, to a blink and you missed it moment with no1 when she had three lines and forgot to say them. (And yes the OTT one has gone in the book). I've seen the Infants do Ambitious and fail, and the Juniors do Dull and succeed. I've watched all of my children being angels, and managed one year to have sprogs in four different plays (that took some stamina).
And in all those years I have yet to see the nativity that I really really want. Namely a traditionally told, simple tale with PROPER carols wot I can sing along too. (I have been so disappointed in this modest ambition, I have in fact made up my perfect Nativity in Last Christmas. One day maybe someone will read my mind and show it to me. )
Both schools tend to go for trendy modern stuff, and the Infants generally aim for a big show that normally falls flat on its face. The Juniors have in the past taken a Get It Over And Done With As Quickly As Possible Kind of Approach. At best we might get to sing one or two carols, but I am greedy and as well as Once in Royal David's City and Hark the Herald Angels, to feel properly Christmassy I want: Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, In the Bleak Midwinter, O Come All ye Faithful, The Coventry Carol and God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman.
Sadly enough (as no 4 would say) I didn't get it this year either.
However, I did get a rather sweet nativity last week in which no 4 was the narrator. Normally the narrator doesn't get to say a lot, but in the past the narrators have tended to be the teacher's pets. Nos 1&2 clearly weren't the chosen ones as they never narrated anything, but during her time it the infants no 3 got to narrate an embarrassing number of times - it got a bit tiresome going to school plays with my head down to avoid the backstabbing. I was rather hoping to end my tenure there as modestly as I started it, but at least I was comforting myself that she wouldn't have much to say. Got much to do? I asked her. Oh no, was the glib reply. Thus reassured I arrived last week to watch her in action, only to discover that the Infants have gone completely against type this year and produced a SIMPLE Nativity, with mainly groups of children singing the story so everyone got a turn rather then having a huge long play to learn. No 4 had to do inordinate amounts of reading and is still proudly boasting that she managed to say traditionally and tradition.
After nine years at the school, this is my last Infant nativity, and I have to fess up to having a pang (but not a tear) at the thought that part of my mothering life is over. Luckily it didn't last long as I was ducking to avoid the brickbats from other mothers jealous that their little darling wasn't a Chosen One again. But I was pleasantly surprised, having sat through some really dire events, that it was actually rather sweet. Nice to go out on a high as it were (and such a relief to know that I'll never have to sit through a dire one EVER again).
Scroll forward to today and I was once more in front of my offspring watching them perform. Now, like I say, if the Infants have put on ambitious productions in the past, the same cannot be said for the Juniors. What parts there are always minimalistic, and no 1 got all the way through without doing anything more then light a candle in her last year (and that only by default as someone was ill), and up until this year no 2 has never had a part either. The service is held in the church that the school belongs to, and it is the most useless place to have anything like that. It tends to get packed out so most of the time I spend an uncomfortable hour craning my neck round a corner to catch a glimpse of the children who are always tucked away in an inaccesible corner somewhere. In fact there have probably been years when I haven't seen them at all.
However, that has all changed. Because after years of having an indifferent attitude to the music, the school finally has a decent music teacher. And boy has she made a difference.
I still didn't get my traditional Nativity (maybe they'll have come back in fashion in time for my grandchildren), but it was rather fun.
Each year group got to tell a bit of the story (which incomprehensibly featured two burglars and some talking animals who apparently were supposed to be arguing at the beginning but I couldn't understand a word they said - I still didn't get it second time around), interspersed with songs. For the first time ever we had a band, with trumpets no less, and a rather (inevitably) scratchy violin.
The afternoon's performance didn't go quite according to plan, and there were some unintentionally hilarious moments when the wrong people came in at the wrong time, or the instrumentalists carried on playing when they shouldn't have, but for the first time EVER at a Junior Christmas play all the kids looked like they were having a blast, and even the ones who didn't have anything much to do were involved.
Mary of course was fantastic. Actually I realised after I started boasting about it, that Mary is usually the most rubbish part because she doesn't usually do or say anything. However in this version of events Mary had quite a few lines. Which I couldn't hear this afternoon as her head was below the microphone. Luckily they'd sorted that technical hitch by the evening. My favourite moment though was when she said to Joseph, The baby's coming and he started running about in a paddy calling for towels and hot water. No 3 then sat down, and a minute later triumphantly stood up holding a baby, saying Here's the baby. You probably had to be there, but considering her own birth was an epic event, I couldn't help laughing at the ease with which Our Lord made it into the world...
All in all it was a fun and enthusiastic performance, if a little rough around the edges, but my favourite bit was a Gloria Rap, during which all the children donned sunglasses (presumably dazzled by the angels' brightness????), including Mary who wore pink ones. As one of my friends said, that was the coolest Mary she'd ever seen...
So there you have it. I thought I'd seen it all as far as nativities go, but Mary rapping in sunglasses will take some beating...