Carols night has been a long-standing tradition at DI and this year, after a hiatus of 2 years it was back. Well, we did have a Carols Night Online during the lockdown in 2020. One cannot write about an event such as this without the backstage stories that lead to this big day. Members of varying sizes, from tiny 4-year-olds to those who now have several decades under their belt come together each year to bring in Christmas with this beautiful DI tradition.
The practices that led to this event have many stories to tell. One started with our Christabel writing the creative script of ‘A Confused Fairytale Christmas’, the play created for this important night. Years of experience made her make the script very ‘flexible’ – able to beautifully include more and more participants who join the Christmas Carols bandwagon. And a journey it is, one that evolves with each day of practice- as creative ideas emerge to accommodate participants with multiple abilities.
Over a very short week, our enthusiastic participants and their parents came for practice, juggling many other things to make time for this. Natalie choreographed the medley of dances, coming up with the innovative idea of adding a ghetto to the confused fairytale. Zach’s Lounge was the venue where hours of rehearsal saw varied emotions – from anxiety about how this will get done in such a short time, to glimmering hope as children picked up their parts, to reassurance, that it will all be ok.
The final stage rehearsal day arrived and children were excited as they went up on stage. The excitement gave way to confusion, as left and right directions, entry and exit points were questioned. The talented and patient father daughter duo – Leslie and Christabel, put on their best Director hats as they took charge. Nitya and Sweta double hatted as assistants to the Directors on stage.
Little Jayden stepped up and made the littlest ones practise their steps. It seemed everyone had various ‘Avatars’ as the little dancers could be seen, earnestly practising Christmas Carols, in their free time. They were proud to be a part of this production and were determined to give it their very best. Although the colourful slides and swings tempted them, the seven little ones decided to focus on practise – both dance and singing. Such dedication in such small children is rare to see.
As the older children practised on stage, our regular talented carol singers arrived. Soon parents also joined in for carol singing. Creative improvisations were made, voice overs and steps rehearsed, costumes finalised, as the whole group of participants and parents put in their best to perfect the performance for the big evening.
The thoughtful events committee organised hot kathi rolls from ‘Sanjha Chulha’ for all – a most welcome treat on the cold winter evening. By 9.30 PM the rehearsals were finally over and everyone went back more confident about their performance.
The Carols Evening
On the evening on 21 December, 2022, as I sat in the audience, looking at the gorgeous performance, my mind marvelled on how this whole bunch of talented, motivated and most of all determined individuals came together as a team and made this creative script come alive.
The stage looked resplendent, complete with an LED Board which added pizazz to the stage and the performances.
Earlier that evening, after the final rounds of rehearsals, the participants were sent off to get into costumes. Considering that most of the performers were children, mothers and members came together to help the children get ready. The changing rooms by the swimming pool were witness to the typical chaos that precedes such performances. Make-up was applied liberally, as is required for stage. While most boys were quite co-operative, there were a few who kept managing to get their make-up disappear in a matter of minutes. It finally took the stern admonishment of the much-loved Tinkerbell aka Christabel, to have the make-up applied for the final time. The excitement and the camaraderie was palpable as they waited to go up on stage.
The emcee for the evening, Raju Raman, welcomed all members and spoke about various types of fairytales as he led the audience to the theme of the performance – The Confused Fairytale Christmas.
With ‘Once upon a time’, as all fairytales begin, the performance of the evening started. The littlest performers, the seven dwarves, came up on stage, donning a happy smile and carrying a pickaxe. I remember seeing these little performers, running around as toddlers pre-pandemic, and now they were up on stage performing their multifaceted roles – from Dwarvesto Elves to Santa’s reindeers, the super seven managed prop changes, role changes with great elan. To assist them were the ‘wardrobe incharge’, Shweta and Nitya. It was a Confused Christmas after all so we had Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, going on vacation on Christmas eve. The super seven elves, transforming into adorable reindeers, came to the rescue and helped Santa spread the gift of joy.
There was one Prince Charming, for our three hoody-wearing Disney princesses – Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Their initial happy dancing turned to jealous competition as they realised they were all running after the same Prince Charming, who seemed to have disappeared after the ball. A confused fairytale this was indeed as Prince Charming’s sister, Tinkerbell, decided to run away to Neverland with Peter Pan. It took the Fairy Godmother and Angel Gabriel to show Tinkerbell that true love did exist, just as it did 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ was born.
As the choir took stage and sang one beautiful Christmas Carol after the next, Leslie conducted the choir with great elan as the nativity sequence was played. Parents of our talented performers took the stage as characters from the nativity.
Tinkerbell finally realised that true love and Christmas was all about giving, family and spreading joy.
The beautiful performance ended with resounding applause from the happy audience. Leslie called out the credits and specially thanked each performer and behind the scenes people like Tanya, Aanya, Rhea, Sweta, Nitya. The voice overs done beautifully by the talented team of Brinelle, Lorraine, Leslie, Tanya and Nate. It was an amazing feat that had been accomplished in a very short span of six days. As a special surprise, Rila Banerjee and Sumit Ramachandran had recorded a song for the credits.
DI President, Jayajit Biswas came up on stage to express his appreciation of the wonderful show put up by members. He mentioned how nostalgic he felt as he said, ‘nostalgia is what DI is all about’. This truly captured the emotion everyone felt at that moment. Di is now also about DIY - Do it Yourself – an initiative to encourage us to help ourselves and others.
The evening was not over yet. After the main stageshow, another DI former member, Rianne, who now lives in Dubai and is visiting Kolkata, came up on stage and sang beautifully. DI had also arranged for the Velvet Ladder band to play. They sang numbers inspiring everyone to dance.
Another gift was in store for the members – our very own Shayne Hyrapet came up on stage and sang brilliantly, the audience loved him. He was followed by Nigel Gomez, another veteran musician and devoted member. Velvet Ladder continued singing into the night – their beautiful singing luring some to the dance floor.
As the performances continued, the grand buffet was ready and senior citizens were requested to take the sumptuous barbecue meals first. The food was catered by ‘The Olde House Eateryl’ and presented the perfect Christmas celebratory barbecue. The delicious meal was enjoyed thoroughly.
It had been a gorgeous evening, with such special heart-warming performances. The efforts of all the participants and all those behind the scenes, truly paid off. It is projects like these that get people together.
Trisha as Prince Charming commented – “I really enjoyed this. The best part about this was the practice sessions – it was chaotic, it was stressful and most of all it was fun. Apart from that I enjoyed how everything unfolded so beautifully on stage”.
Ike Ireland shared, “I think the DI Christmas Carols Evening was very nice. The kids were the most adorable. Only 6 days of practice, they did a phenomenal job. So, congratulations DI and the kids of DI”
Photos of the event are on Facebook and Instagram.