Don we now our (insert adjective) apparel

Thanks to all of you who commented on my recent post about the recent Moultrie Middle School Choir concert and the slightly confusing circumstances surrounding some holiday song lyrics.

First, thanks to Allyson Bird and Diette Courrege from the Post & Courier. Allyson passed along my blog post to Diette, who covers the schools for the paper. Special thanks to Diette who made phone calls, asked questions and finally (mostly) got to the bottom of this gay/bright apparel kerfuffle.

Here’s the scoop from Diette who spoke to officials at both Moultrie Middle School and the District.

The Moultrie Middle School Choir sang two holiday songs that included parts of “Deck The Halls” during their holiday performance:

1. “A Holiday Invitation” by Victor C. Johnson

2. “‘Tis The Season Once Again,” a medley (or mashup, as the kids call it) of “Here We Come A-Caroling,” “O Christmas Tree” and “Deck The Hall” (Note: no “s” on Hall), arranged by Tom Anderson.

PDFs of the sheet music are below for your perusal.

A Holiday Invitation
Tis the Season Once Again

You’ll note that in “A Holiday Invitation,” the sheet music reads: “don we now our bright apparel,” while “‘Tis The Season Once Again” sheet music reads: “don we now our gay apparel.” According to Moultrie Middle School, both songs were performed at the concert, and the choir sang the lyrics as printed in the sheet music. Meaning, Moultrie Middle School didn’t de-gay the song. Hooray!

Interestingly, Charleston radio station, Y102.5, broadcast the Moultrie Choir performance, but only included the “Holiday Invitation” bright apparel version, so that’s the only one the greater Charleston public heard.

Here’s a video of the Y102.5 broadcast. “Holiday Invitation” begins at 3:30. Also of note, some serious middle school shimmying at 4:53.

So, it begs the question, did Y102.5 mean to only include the bright apparel version? Let’s hope not. Let’s hope it was a time constraint thing, or a completely benign omission and nothing more.

By the way, I’d love for anyone who actually attended the Moultrie Middle School performance to confirm that the choir did actually perform both songs. If so, please comment. Thanks.

Actually, I’d especially love to have a chat with Victor C. Johnson, writer of “The Holiday Invitation” to ask why he changed the word “gay” to “bright,” especially when he kept other dated words like “troll.” I couldn’t find much biographical information about Mr. Johnson, but I did run across this via

Victor [C] Johnson is a native of Dallas, Texas, and is in his 10th year of teaching at the Ft. Worth Academy of Fine Arts. He is also in his tenth year as director of the Children’s Choir of Texas. Victor attended the University of Texas at Arlington where he majored in Music Education with a concentration in Organ. While attending UTA, he served as student conductor of the university’s choral ensembles and opera workshop accompanist. In 1997, he was named “Outstanding Music Freshmen” and also “Outstanding Musician” in 2001.

As a composer, Victor has won numerous composition contests and received ASCAP Awards for the past eight years. His first piece was published with Lorenz in 1994, while he was a sophomore in high school.

Victor’s professional affiliations include: American Choral Directors Association, Texas Music Educators Association, ASCAP, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Inc.

Victor currently serves at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, as Minister of Worship and Fine Arts.

And this biography from the Shiloh Baptist Church:

Victor Johnson joined the staff of Shiloh in 2007. His responsibilities include the administration of the music staff, assisting the pastor in planning and leading worship and other special services and directing the adult choirs.

Victor received degrees in music education/organ from The University of Texas at Arlington. He is in his 9th year of teaching at the Ft. Worth Academy of Fine Arts and also 9th year as Artistic Director of the Children’s Choir of Texas.

As a composer, Victor has over 75 published compositions in the catalogues of Heritage Music Press, the Lorenz Corporation, Hal Leonard Publishing and Neil A. Kjos Publishers. He has won ASCAP awards yearly since 1997.

His professional affiliations include the American Choral Directors Association, Texas Choral Directors Association, Texas Music Educators Association, ASCAP, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Inc.

Is it possible that Mr. Johnson’s Baptist affiliation is the reason for the lyric change? The Baptist Church has rather mixed views on the word gay, when defined as homosexual. However, I don’t know Mr. Johnson personally, nor do I know his religious beliefs, his politics, nor the reason he changed “gay” to “bright.”

I do think it’s worth noting (and my nerd writer self is giddy with excitement about this) that the words we choose matter and are worthy of our mindful consideration.

I’m relieved and hopeful that Moultrie Middle School sang two songs verbatim from the sheet music and did not set out to change lyrics that someone/anyone deemed “inappropriate” or “controversial.”

As I watched the video of the performance, I was struck by the young faces singing. You can almost feel the nervousness, the mix of excitement to perform combined with the sheer and total embarrassment of having to do anything at all that draws attention to themselves, especially in front of their parents. As all of us former teenagers can recall, those moments were both slightly terrifying and brilliant.

And so friends, I wish you moments both slightly terrifying and brilliant this holiday season (just to keep things balanced), much peace, joy and gay apparel to all!



Don we now our gay apparel

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook last night:

The Moultrie Middle School choir changed “don we now our gay apparel” to “bright apparel.” Is the word gay so evil that we have to remove it altogether?

A flurry of comments and dialogue ensued, including much outrage and a fair share of humor, including:

I’m offended they used the word “don” with its obvious pro-mafia connotation.

I'm gonna troll an ancient yuletide carol he can't refuse."

I’m sure they don’t use the word “don” every day, but they didn’t change that word. But by eliminating the word “gay,” they’ve sent a clear message that there’s something wrong with the word.

Let’s call the Flintstones. Maybe their theme song should say “fun old time” instead?

Reknown for having a gay old time.

Oh, Moultrie Middle School, you missed a fine, teachable moment.

Let’s rewind a bit.

Merriam Webster defines the word “gay” as:

1: a : happily excited : merryb : keenly alive and exuberant : having or inducing high spirits

2: a : bright, lively <gay sunny meadows> b : brilliant in color

3: given to social pleasures; also : licentious

4: a : homosexual <gay men> b : of, relating to, or used by homosexuals <the gay rights movement> <a gay bar>

Can we all agree that “gay apparel” refers to clothing and accessories that are merry in mood, brilliant in color, and happy-making?

Or do you seriously think that the writer of the lyrics to “Deck The Halls,” poet John Ceiriog Hughes was referring exclusively to the clothing and accessories of homosexuals?

For the love of gay apparel, people.

Can we also agree that part of education is learning that words have multiple meanings? That words need to be viewed in the context of intent and even history? I mean, do you “troll the ancient yuletide carol?” Other than with Fred Flintstone, that is. Pray, please invite me when you do.

Look, I grew up in a generation where the word “gay” was a synonym for stupid, lame, and basically anything anyone didn’t like. Know what? We still sang the original words to “Deck The Halls” for all of my school recitals.

Now. Did some kids giggle during rehearsals? Yes.

They also giggled whenever the words gas, chest, bathroom, or but(t) (the conjunction and the body part) were uttered. (Note: this is not a complete list.) Why? Because kids are even more nervous than we are about their bodies, its functions and how and when it will grow and change. Oh, and they’re silly. They’re kids.

Did these same kids giggle during our recital performance – in a room full of people that included their parents, families, teachers, and school administrators? Of course not, because they would have died of embarrassment/been killed by their parents for not “taking things seriously.” (See above: they’re kids.)

We prove ourselves as adults when we push through our own fears, our own uncomfortable, oogey (that’s a clinical term) feelings to engage in honest, thoughtful dialogue with children. To answer their very real questions, assuage their fears, and hear them. Let me repeat that: hear them.

Cue the well-executed teachable moment.

Take two minutes to watch the video below of a lesbian couple who so eloquently and graciously confront their mayor, Joyce Daniels, who recently posted anti-gay sentiments on her Facebook page.

Mayor Daniels’s post, dated June 25, reads:

I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there.

With warmth, humor and intelligence, the couple introduces their two daughters to the mayor, shares their drawings with her, and in all ways, takes the high road to understanding and acceptance.

Rather than lashing out in anger. Rather than ignoring the post, or the changed lyrics. We each, we all, have the opportunity to share our experiences with our children, our neighbors, our fellow parents, and our community. We have the opportunity to engage each other in meaningful, respectful dialogue. To show our children, by example, that we all have the power to move through the oogiest of moments with kindness and grace. And, that we are all free to don our apparel, gay or otherwise.