« WSAU Opinion Blog

OPINION - The repertoire, and a new problem

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  We now know the holiday concert playlist that sparked the Master Singers controversy in Wausau. Here it is:

First up, a two-part harmony number that combines "Let It Snow" and "Winter Wonderland".

Next, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" -- a song that reminds us "Christ our savior was born on Christmas Day..." and offer "tidings of comfort and joy."

After that we come to a song done in the style of the Glen Miller Orchestra called "Getting In The Mood". The Master Singers some years perform dressed up as a classic radio cast from the 1920s or 30s.

Followed by "Joy To The World" -- the most-performed Christmas carol in the western hemisphere.  

Then they'd perform "Jingle Bell Rock" in four-part harmony.

Then a quietly reflective version of "Silent Night".

Their performance closes with an upbeat medley of pop Christmas songs called "Jingle All The Way".

Seven selections. All celebrate the Judeo-Christian Christmas of exchanging gifts and being of good cheer. Three songs are religious in nature, and of them two would be considered sacred music.

And here is the problem: this repertoire would withstand any court challenge. No one is singing to win converts to Christ; the religious songs all have historical significance and are not being presented in the context of a church service or a prayer hour. The songs that aren't Christian-themed are pop standards that are in no way inappropriate for a holiday concert.

Now that I've seen the list, the issue has changed for me. This isn't a question of the Wausau School District being defensive about the possibility of being sued. If someone threatens a lawsuit, the district could simply have its lawyer cite case law and prepare a defense. "Bring it on... we'll win," should be their response. No, this is now about the judgment of the school staff members who are screening, reviewing, and accepting or rejecting holiday music. They're pushing an agenda -- an anti-Christmas agenda. 

In my mind, the problem is deeper now. It's not just a question of what the school district's policy will be. The issue lies with the people overseeing the policy itself. Where judgment and interpretation are required we've already seen on which side their decisions come down.

Chris Conley
10.14.13