Newburgh Christmas Concert marks 40th anniversary

There were plenty of laughs at last year's Newburgh Community Christmas Concert and there's sure to be more at this year's on Dec. 14. File photo.

Adam Prudhomme

Original skits peppered with a bit of a retrospective from the previous decades of laughter will be on tap Dec. 14 when the Newburgh Community Concert returns for its 40th year.

Held at Newburgh Public School there will once again be a pair of shows-one at 3 p.m., the other at 7 p.m.

As always, admission to the long standing village tradition is by donation-audience members can give whatever they can. Money raised will be used to buy toys for kids who would otherwise go without this holiday season.

“There was a lot of discussion over the summer around what the 40th year should look like,” said Mae Whalen, one of the play’s founding members who once again returns as director. “Should it be a retrospect of all the other years? On our 30th we did a huge thing, like the Academy Awards where we listed our Best Of and picked a bunch of skits. There was a long process and a lot of discussion of what do we want this to look like. We came to the realization after 40 years, if you average that we usually did something between 15-20 scripts a year, we had well over 600 scripts. Trying to cram some kind of a reflection of those years into one hour is literally impossible.”

They even toyed with the idea of opening it up to the public to vote for their favourite skits from the previous 39 concerts. That idea was scrapped when they realized they could wind up with too many different suggestions. In the end, they found a happy medium.

“What we’ve done this year is 80-85 per cent is all original stuff, like we’ve done every other year,” said Whalen. “There’s the odd throwback with the ones that we have truly enjoyed ourselves.”

Audience members can expect the usual mix of comedy, singing and a few heartwarming moments. The skits will poke fun at some of the biggest news events over the last year, though nothing political or divisive. It’s all light-hearted and in the name of fun.

“I have newspaper clippings from the Beaver from literally back in 1980 that I had stuck away so I got everything in date order and it is really fascinating to read those early reports when we just starting out and thinking how crazy it is that we have done it for three years in a row,” said Whalen. “Even back then we couldn’t figure out how it was still going even after three years. Now we’re onto 40 and still begging that question.”

This year’s cast and crew is made up of 24 people. Of that group, 11 have been involved in the concert for over 30 years. Nearly three-quarters of the cast and crew have been involved for at least 25 years.

“We’ve always recognized we had something special,” said Whalen. “It’s not just about us. It’s about our audience that joins in and creates that atmosphere. It’s a very inclusive thing and it wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have the kinds of audience that we do that come and support us.”

Over the years they’ve raised $244,000 to go towards the purchase of new toys.

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