An old–fashioned radio Christmas

Published 10:40 pm Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Instead of Lake Wobegone tales it was a Birmingham saga.

The lively show wasn’t performed in a Lutheran church in St. Paul, Minn., but the Double Oaks Community Church of Mt Laurel’s Old-Fashioned Radio Christmas rivaled the homespun humor of A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor.

On Dec. 12 lights twinkled among trees on a foggy green, reflecting onto wet streets as I maneuvered past the shops of Mt Laurel, arriving at Oak Mountain Community Church on Olmsted Street.

The oval windows of its Old World timbered-and-stone building were clad in greenery. Inside and onstage the Double Oak Band kicked up carols.

With the timing of a Swiss watchmaker, actors filed onto stage, joining the band, jumping into dialogue.

“Tonight’s program is sponsored by hot chocolate, drink of choice for the season,” said actor Paul Johnson, touting luscious, delightfully silky chocolate to the band’s soft sounds.

Ben Moon had a starring role with his artful sound effects, an array of voices, including Charles Dickens, Jimmy Stewart and President Barack Obama.

A children’s choir filed onto stage, the band still playing. They commenced singing with sweet strong voices, a tune from “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Christmas Time is Here.” An adult choir followed with a medley of acapella carols.

Narrative acting included a hilarious scene among Presidents Obama, George Bush and Bill Clinton.

Scene changes were quick as a 2-year-old child’s mood changes.

“When shadows fall in the heart of the city, one person walks for justice: Phil Fedora, Private Eye,” said an actor, introducing a detective saga.

Later on, two characters, Boxcar Bill and Stumpy, came riding the rails into Birmingham in search of adventure and the American dream. They land in a nativity scene instead.

The show lasted two delightful hours, and included tunes from Composer Isaac Watts. “Joy to the World” underlined the show’s theme: Christ is for everyone. The energetic program brought laughter, a clapping good time.

“It’s kind of crazy good,” said Pastor Randy Overstreet.

Finally, Linus read Luke’s gospel account. “This is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,” he concluded.

The band played the “Charlie Brown” theme song as the audience filed out into a cold rain.

Minnesota would surely have had snow.

Otherwise, the scene was right out of Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion.”

The radio show will air on 105.5 WERC, Dec. 20-25 at 8 p.m., complete with real on-air shout-outs.

Gladys Hodge Sherrer can be reached by e–mail at