Historical Flashbacks

The Singing Christmas Tree at Circle Drive Alliance

Circle Drive Alliance Church's philosophy and purpose has always shaped its programming. One purpose is to reach out into the community with a message of hope. Pastor Walter Boldt felt that one means of effectively meeting this objective was to develop a Christmas program that would be attractive to all ages and could communicate the reason for this season.

He was aware of several churches who used the concept of a Singing Christmas Tree as the focal point for their special Christmas program. He contacted People's Church in Toronto for more information. Upon request, they shared their construction plans. Under Ron Abramoff's direction and expertise, a steel framework was created to fill the proportions of Circle Drive's platform.

The music director, Curt Nelson, felt that evergreen boroughs would give added realism to the structure. He organized the first of many treks into northern Saskatchewan to collect 100 small northern pines to convert the seven meter high structure into a fragrant green edifice.

The first performance in 1980 was electrifying. The enormous structure, decked with strings of lights, glittering tinsel and large red bows, emanating a pine scent, left people gasping. The dynamic music presented by robed choir members in the Tree plus the talents of guest soloist, Ellen Roweton, further added to the wonder of the performance. Afterwards, one individual indicated that he would have expected a spectacular event like this in New York, but not in Saskatoon. Circle Drive's first musical Christmas gift to Saskatoon enjoyed a positive response. Listen to it here!

The following year, the community Christmas gift, extended by one night, was received by well over double those who attended the first year.

When Jim Black took over the music leadership in 1983, he expanded the program. Two large wreaths were added to hold the various children's choirs and a 3 octave handbell set played by Senior High girls added a festive touch to the musical package.

By the time the fourth annual presentation was finished in 1984, the popularity of the musical gift to the community was greater than the church's capacity. Passengers of 120 cars were turned away while nearly 10,000 people had squeezed into the three performances.

A major addition to the Singing Christmas Tree came the following year. The audience was given an opportunity to demonstrate their Christmas spirit. Through their enthusiastic generosity, in excess of $8,000 was given to African Relief. This part of the program has continued, although the organizations receiving the monetary Christmas gift has gradually changed from only needs overseas to include those right on our doorstep. The Saskatoon Food Bank and the Friendship Inn have become recipients. Since 1984, in excess of $27,800 has been contributed to various organizations.

That same year the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation videotaped the performance for broadcast purposes. They continued to include the Singing Christmas tree as a part of their seasonal broadcasting schedule for a number of years.

The Singing Christmas Tree became a part of many families' traditions as they began to include the program as an essential ingredient in their Christmas celebration. The introduction of live animals into the program added to the realism of the Christmas Story. Children sat on the edge of their chairs waiting for a glimpse of the "walk through" part by the donkey and the appearance of the sheep. Each year one set of parents wondered if their baby, chosen to be this year's "Jesus", would perform peacefully.

In 1987, Blair Mills took over the direction of music ministries at Circle Drive. With additional seating provided by the completion of the balcony the night before the first performance, an additional 1,000 people could comfortably attend each night's performance.

The Singing Christmas Tree program was re-shaped in 1988 to meet the interest levels of the community. The focus on the Christmas message of God giving His son in love to the world was retained in the second half of the program, while the first 40 minutes used traditional and seasonal music. Live animals were replaced by puppets performing in the Tree for at least one song, giving a humorous look at the season.

That year, the program was presented on two weekends, for a total of five nights, resulting in an all-time record attendance of 11,000 people enjoying the program. An offering of $8,200 was collected for World Relief, the Saskatoon Food Bank and the Friendship Inn.

Another change that came in 1988 was a deliberate attempt to challenge the audience to accept the gift of Christmas which God gave, that of eternal life through His Son Jesus. A total of 98 people signed cards indicating their decision. The following year, 90 individuals marked cards to show their interest in receiving the gift of eternal life.

Rev. Walter Boldt was the driving force behind this major event for 9 years. Although he had resigned from the church ministry before the 10th Annual Singing Christmas Tree was held, the program continued for a number of years.

December 1982

December 1982

Kids Choir 1982

Tree Setup - Frame

Tree Setup - Decorations

Decorating the Wreaths

Historical Flashbacks were researched and written by Lorraine Willems. Contributors are noted on the related pages.

Photos by Al Willems.

Copyright 2003 and 2013 by copyright holders.