‘Fruitcake’ survives another year
Updated: January 7, 2013 6:10AM
WINNETKA — There will be “Fruitcake.”
The charmingly goofy favorite song of New Trier High School’s annual Winter Music Festival, replete with hand-signals and mugging, was about to be sliced out of the Dec. 16 show, but the performers dragged it back on stage in time to continue the tradition in place for a generation or so.
The problem with “Fruitcake,” said David Ladd, head of the New Trier Music Department, was that Choir-Opera, the 80-member group of some of the best singers in the high school’s 800-student festival, was going to again be confined to a novelty song.
He and other department leaders didn’t see that as fair to them.
“Musically, it’s not very challenging,” he said last week.
It isn’t much of a tune. The 1968 piece by Philip Hagemann and Penny Leka, lampooning the recipe for the much-maligned Christmas confection, is largely a chant in harmony.
So over the last couple of months, the department leadership came to the conclusion that “maybe we weren’t going to do this,” Ladd said.
Word got out, and it was something of a shock to the prospective attendees of the 3 p.m. Gates Gym show.
“Everybody looks forward to it every year,” said Wilmette’s Lali Watt, who has two kids in the show. “It’s wonderful.”
Then on Nov. 26, at the Choir-Opera class, the kids were told what was afoot.
“There was a reaction to that,” Ladd said. The reaction, he said, was not positive.
“They were just disappointed they hadn’t been told about it up to that point,” he said.
The solution? The Choir-Opera gets to do “Fruitcake,” plus another piece, “Sleigh Ride,” in multiple-part harmony. Much more challenging, Ladd said.
He added that “Fruitcake,” unlike the oft-unappreciated Christmas gift it describes, will not necessarily be around next year. So those who want to see and hear it should do so this year, at 385 Winnetka Ave. It’s free.