When paintings come to life

 

Every year I think about going back to my high school, Roland Park Country School, to see the Christmas program. But somehow, since becoming a mother in December 2009, I haven’t made it back.

This year, though, one of my friends invited me to go with her, and I had no excuse. John said he would be happy to pick up the boys from preschool and feed them dinner. So I left work early and headed to Roland Avenue.

Now, I am no expert on Christmas programs, but the performance at RPCS is particularly special. In many ways it’s not the program I remember from what feels like many years ago. But the program still has a beauty and a sense of wonder.

It begins in darkness, broken by candlelight and voices singing a cappella.

There are readings and songs—some of them the same ones I sang in the program almost 20 years ago.

But what keeps me coming back are the living reproductions of Christmas artwork. They feature students, dressed in costumes and posed with scenery to match the actual paintings. The magic is that the models are trained to hold still for several minutes at a time.

You hold your breath watching them, as you peer through a large picture frame on stage, taking in every detail of the scene.

There is always one scene depicting the Annunciation, one showing Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, and another showing either the shepherds or the wise men visiting the baby in the manger.

The living reproductions are just awe-inspiring. The audience is always silent and absolutely transfixed. And the music helps draw you into the whole experience.

There is no way I could do the experience justice with my feeble video attempts today, but I wanted to capture them to share the living reproductions with Leo and Daniel. And when Leo and I were watching them together tonight, I decided you might enjoy them, too.

When the curtain opened on this one, “Manger Scene,” and I realized it was a painting by a Chinese artist, Luke Chen, I wished Leo were with me to see it.

But I was able to play it for him tonight, and he gazed with me at these magical living moments showing Jesus’ birth.

 

I also captured just a bit of this one of Francois Boucher’s “Holy Night.”

 

Even though my camera jiggled around, Leo was entranced. And, as you can imagine, these videos only hint at the beauty and the wonder of the living reproductions.

But now that Leo has seen these extremely rough movies, I have a feeling he’ll want to tag along next year to see them himself. In fact, he has a steady hand. Maybe I’ll even let him hold the camera.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.