The holiday season is traditionally marked by festive choral music, decorated cookies, and in recent years, ugly sweater contests. CST employees get to experience all three traditions at the same time at the company’s yearly Holiday Concert.
The concert began early in the company’s history, a few employees formed an a capella singing group to perform holiday songs. Later, musicians were recruited to accompany the Holiday Chorus, and the Non-SpeciFc Band was born. (It’s true, some of us just cannot resist a corny pun about western blot bands). This year, we had guitars, mandolin, piano, trumpet, saxophone, and violin.
Having grown over the years, the concert takes no small measure of organization to pull off. The chorus is led by associate scientist Krystyna Hincman. Planning and song selection begins in September. When they can, singers and musicians spend their Tuesday lunch break rehearsing.
Being recently hired, I was recruited to join the band and also sing in the chorus. It was a great excuse to get out my violin, which hadn’t seen much use since college, and to meet some fellow employees from across the company. Employees from just about every function, from Glasswashing to the Executive Suite, were all involved. We were also fortunate to have help on piano from from Ray Novack, a local music teacher. Several of Ray’s former pupils are now CST employees.
Some of the songs performed in the 2016 concert were of the familiar and traditional variety, including “The First Noel”, “Hark the Herald Angel Sing”, and “Joy to the World”. Others songs were from the rock ‘n roll era, such as “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (originally recorded by Brenda Lee in 1958) and “Santa Baby” (recorded by Eartha Kitt in 1953). Other songs offered holiday wishes for peace and harmony: John Lennon’s “Happy XMas (War Is Over)”, Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas”, and a song recently popularized by Jordin Sparks, “This Is My Wish”. And on top of the choral numbers were several featured duets (performed by the bravest of the singers), and a solo piano arrangement of “Silent Night” like you’ve never heard before.
In keeping with CST tradition, the highlight was a parody song, performed in the style of Weird Al Yankovic. Curtis Desilets, one of our development scientists, rewrote the lyrics to “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band, changing the theme from a fiddle contest to antibody development and western blots.
The chorus, the array of cookies including a decorate-your-own gingerbread man station, and yes, the ugly sweater contest (or, if you prefer, “interesting sweater contest”), are a December highlight at our Danvers headquarters. As we wrap up 2016 and travel for the holidays, all of us at CST wish you a Happy Holiday season and a productive and healthy New Year 2017!