Singing Christmas Tree
by Michele Yamamoto
As the Bay High School Choirs prepare for another performance of holiday music this December, we at the Bay Village Historical Society decided to take a look into our archives for some history about the much-loved “Singing Christmas Tree.” Housed in our archives are programs from the first years of the tree and information on how the structure came to be.
Bay High Choir Director and Vocal Music Teacher Curt Crews (Walter Curtis Crews) was quoted in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in December of 1960 that he got the idea for the tree from a news article about a similar structure in Denver, Colorado. The school in Denver that owned the structure sent Crews their own blueprints, but after calculating the costs, it seemed the price was too prohibitive for Bay High School to build one of its own. Earl Danielson, president of the Danco Metal Company, had children at Bay High School and he and his associates agreed to build and donate a tree to Bay High School which would otherwise have cost $5,000.
The tree took eight men four hours to assemble for its seasonal appearance. Because of the tree’s size, the annual Christmas performance had to be moved to the gym for its first appearance in 1959. This meant the lighting installation had to be adapted for the new space, which presented a challenge. The structure was built at 21 feet high and 14 feet at the base. Risers were built every two feet and safety bars were placed in front of the singers to prevent accidents. All of the singers could take their places on the tree in less than five minutes. Crews noted, “We don’t have much of a problem deciding who will be at the top of the tree. Many of the singers don’t want to go up that high. I find it a little dizzying myself.”
The “Singing Christmas Tree,” as it was called, was used for its first performance by the Bay High School Chorus on December 16, 1959. 86 Bay High Choir members are listed in the program. They were dressed in green robes with aluminum collars, holding red, white or green electric candles. A two-foot white star graced the top of the tree. The choir sang a number of traditional Christmas songs, the first listed being Adeste Fideles.
The 1959 program closes with notes in appreciation, including: “The structural tree that enhances our program tonight was fabricated and erected by Danco Metal Products Company of Westlake. Messers Earl Danielson and Mauri Halstrom with a Denver news clipping to guide them have all but invented the structure which weighs over one ton and can be disassembled and used year after year. This is one of the most considerable gifts ever presented to our school. Very few audiences in the world are hearing choral voices placed as these singers are tonight as high as twenty-two feet in the air.”
The next performance of the Bay High School Choir on the “Singing Christmas Tree” will be happening 63 years after the first, on December 18 and 19, 2022. Visit the Bay High School website for more information and how to buy tickets: 2022 Holiday Choral Concert Tickets
The holidays are here at Rose Hill – December 4, 11, and 18, 2022!
You may hear the Bay High Choraleers sing Christmas carols at the Rose Hill Museum on December 11 from 2:30-3:30pm in the Victorian parlor room. The performance is part of holiday celebrations happening December 4, 11, and 18th at the museum. Also making an appearance on the 11th is Santa Claus, who will be available that afternoon for photographs in our newly reconditioned 1800s sleigh. The cost for the photo is $20 and reservations are available on our website. Throughout Sundays in December, you will be greeted by volunteers in period costumes, taking you through our festively decorated home. Our newly restored upstairs portrait gallery, early 1800s rug with pastoral scene and Aldrich family hair wreath are on display. There will be spinning wheel, loom and rug hooking demonstrations and Preston Postle will be reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Visit the Bay Historical Society’s website for all of the details, how to reserve a time with Santa and the route he’ll be taking through Bay Village on December 4th: https://www.bayhistorical.com/cahoon-christmas-2022/