Down dimly lit residential streets, families flood towards Meadow Park in Colwood, holding their loved ones close as they take shelter under umbrellas from the pouring rain.
It’s the evening of Friday, Dec. 10, and the crowd converges in the middle of the park, where spotlights illuminate an empty stage. Soon, the recognizable, animated voice of Sangster Elementary School music teacher Chris Poynter can be heard ushering students to take their positions on stage.
One by one, children in festive costumes reach their spots and turn around to face smiling parents and siblings, who haven’t seen them perform live as a group since 2019. From the youngest classes through to intermediate and senior years, each class sings a series of songs, interspersed with holiday-themed jokes for the crowd.
“Hey… what is a Christmas tree’s favourite candy?” asks a student, pausing. “Orna-mints! Get it? Orna-mints!”
The crowd emits a mixture of laughter, groans and claps.
The school’s end-of-year concert is a big community tradition, but last year’s was cancelled due to the pandemic. This year, Sangster got creative and partnered with the City of Colwood and local businesses to shift to an outdoor venue and give the kids their moment to shine.
At the concert, Colwood Mayor Rob Martin stands watching from the crowd, smiling. For him, this has been a long time coming. He says he has been dreaming for years about seeing the community come together like this.
“This park, and this space, and this event … creates [a sense of] community, where people can actually see their neighbours, and interact and see the kids,” Martins say. “It’s just about creating that sense of home. This just feeds right into that. It creates that joy for us.”
Speakers, covered with bags to protect them from the rain, play the tunes of Christmas favourites, while students sing along at the top of their lungs. Each group of students, separated into primary and intermediate levels, serenades the crowd with three songs each, some classics and some more complicated, like a song from the broadway musical, Elf.
Another student steps forward with microphone in hand.
“What did the judge say to the angry advent calendar?” they ask, pausing. “Your days are numbered!”
Throughout the show Poynter stands in front of the stage directing the choir through their performances, the first to clap when they complete a difficult section. At one point, he joins in the performance, playing guitar alongside his accordian-wielding brother. Several students nervously step to the front of the stage to perform solos; fellow students enthusiastically encourage them upon completion.
Martin’s kids, now 27 and 29, attended Sangster in elementary school. Something that hasn’t wavered over the last 20 years, he says, is the quality of the school’s music program. He emphasizes that this needs to continue for years to come.
“Music and the arts; we focus so much on athletics, and we really invest a fair amount into that. And we don’t invest in the arts the same way,” Martin says.
“Having the arts in your life adds so much quality to your life, and quality of life to others as well, that we have to have the arts. Embracing this and having children understand how they can be involved in the arts early in their life, is so important.”