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THE EGG NOG GALA
13 December 2021
More than 30 years ago, The Lamplighters, the San Francisco Gilbert & Sullivan group we’ve been involved with on and off, as audience, staff or crew for sixty years or so, needed money. They decided to throw themselves a marvelous party. At the time they wondered if it might not be their last gasp.
They called it a champagne gala and it was a potpourri of musical numbers, preceded by a fire backstage (accidental!), and followed by an all-the-champagne-you-can-drink reception (planned), with champagne donated by Weibel Vineyards. The thing was wildly successful and has become one of the most anticipated fund raisers of The Lamplighters year today, with originally written, very funny scripts and always the champagne reception (though now The Lamplighters buys the bubbily and charges high prices for tickets to the show).
Originally, the Champagne Gala closed out the Lamplighter year, and kind of started our holiday season, as it was usually scheduled for the first week in December.
The kids came to connect the Champagne Gala to the Christmas festivities.
In 1977, the year the city of Davis first presented "The Davis Children’s Nutcracker," which may have been our kids' first theatrical experience. The kids decided to bring their new theatrical expertise to the living room. They decided that on Christmas night they would put on a show for the family. Since they were too young to drink champagne, it was called "the Egg Nog Gala," and at the end of the show, everyone was served a glass of (virgin) egg nog.
In my scrapbooks, I came across the program for The First Annual Egg Nog Gala:
(Nothing says "Christmas" like a good drum solo, don't you think?)
Egg Nog Galas continued for several years and most of my happiest Christmas memories revolve around these shows. This is 1983:
There were frequently funny skits. There was "bubble gum," where the idea was that a line of people each encountered a piece of discarded gum, each in successively more disgusting ways, until the last person actually put the gum in his/her mouth. This skit was repeated on camping trips with other kids from our Newman group and was a staple of skits for many years.
One of my favorite skits was a re-enactment of the Nativity, with Mary going into a very graphic labor and delivery of a stuffed animal at the end. God did not smite us for that skit, but it certainly was one of the more hilarious nativities anyone has ever seen.
As the kids grew older and their musical abilities improved, music played a major part in the Egg Nog Gala (in the waning days, music was the entire Egg Nog Gala). With Jeri being able to play piano, clarinet, flute or saxophone, there were lots of possibilities, with Ned and Paul both playing the guitar and Ned the drum--plus anybody could play some rhythm instrument or a kazoo.
When we had foreign students staying with us (as we did for about 10 years worth of Christmases), they were roped into performing as well, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes eagerly--usually with some embarrassment, because they had never "performed" before.
One of the highlights of any show was David's famous rendition of "Deck the Halls." David never took formal music lessons for any length of time but he managed to pick out a one-fingered version of "Deck the Halls" on the piano and, especially as he got older, it became funnier and funnier. The last time he performed for the family (he was in high school at the time, and still doing the one-finger rendition), his uncle Norm sat down and played his version of "Deck the Halls," with the same one finger, and same intense concentration.
I do miss those Egg Nog Galas. They were definitely some of the best times of our kids' "growing-up Christmases."
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