I’ve undoubtedly told this story before, but it’s a good time to repeat it.
For a few years, one of my family’s Christmas traditions was going to see local singer B.E. Taylor’s annual Christmas concert. It started with my mom’s friend Fran, who she met through work, inviting her one year, and even after just that first year, both of my parents were adamant that I would really enjoy it. But I resisted. It really didn’t seem like my thing, even though I love Christmas music, so year after year, they’d go and they’d say, “Janelle, you really ought to go next year.” I think I finally caved after my brother went one year and said the same thing.
This is probably a whole separate thing worth exploring, but I think sometimes we resist things our families thing we’d like even though they’re totally right. Like, especially between my parents and brother, I don’t think they’ve ever really been wrong about something like that.
So finally, I relented and went, and sure enough, my family was right. I’m not sure what I expected–and regardless I have such eclectic taste in music that you’d think I’d at least have been more open-minded, but no–but it definitely wasn’t what I got.
And so our new tradition became meeting up with Fran and her husband, often for dinner nearby beforehand, and going to the concert. And the thing is–possibly a crucial thing–this is nowhere near unique. They often played two shows at Heinz Hall in town, often packed with families and friends going together, often for another consecutive year.
I myself did this for a couple years, maybe two or three, before B.E. Taylor died in 2016. I remember sitting across from my best friend out at lunch when I saw the news, and she was home in the middle of marital issues that ended in a divorce, so great year all around, that was.
This year, B.E. Taylor’s son and drummer, B.C., decided to continue the tradition of a Christmas concert, reuniting all the members of the band that had become so familiar to so many people over the years–I may have enjoyed only a few, but the concert itself was a tradition going back something like 20 years. So once again, we all got together. While we didn’t go to dinner, my brother and I met up in the South Hills and took the T and we met my parents and Fran like we had plenty of times before.
The concert was as much as Christmas celebration as it was a tribute to B.E. Pictures and videos flashed in the background, and for a couple of songs, the band played to a track of B.E. singing from a recording of one of the annual concerts. And it included a lot of the elements that made the concert memorable and won me over that very first time, like a local high school drum line coming onstage for a few songs and a local steel-drum band playing along with “Mary’s Boy Child,” which has been one of my favorite Christmas songs since I first heard it and naturally became one of the highlights of the concert for me.
A church choir was also one of the staples, and in the final years of the original concerts, their director had a stroke, and his son now fills his role.
And so it was hard not to be struck by two things.
One, how despite so much familiarity and all the same band and all the songs everyone loves, the concert is really different now, with two big parts of it gone. In a way, it probably reflects the lives of the audience, too. From the start of going to the concerts to now, my brother and I have gotten married, we’ve lost our grandfather, I bought a house and he got an apartment, and now he’s expecting his first child in the spring, and then there’s everyone else in the audience, too, and how their lives look different now than they did even a year ago.
But two, these two men were now onstage following in their fathers’ footsteps, and that the concert is as much a tradition for everyone on that stage as it is for everyone in the audience and they were continuing it. And the concert always was a family affair, but perhaps even more so given that fact.
It was nice to be back after a couple of years without it, and I hope to see it continue.
And so, enjoy my favorite, and one that wormed its way into my head for a few days but stars Jeff Jimerson, perhaps best known as the Pens’ anthem singer.