HISTORY OF THE PAGEANT
HISTORY OF THE CHRISTMAS STORY
The Christmas Story was first presented at the Church of the Holy Trinity in 1938. It has been performed here every year since. Even when a major fire spread to the church from the Eaton Warehouses in 1977 and destroyed the roof and some of the windows, the pageant was performed that Christmas in the Eaton Centre.
The Christmas Story began in 1928 at a church in London, England in St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The Reverend Pat McCormick, along with the church’s music director, and a parishioner, crafted the script and the accompanying music. They carefully assembled Gospel passages from the King James Version of the Bible and set it to what they regarded as the most beautiful seasonal music.
The Queen and her sister Margaret were taken to see this production when they were little girls.
The Christmas Story at St. Martin-in-the-Fields was performed until 1938. It was closed down the following year as a result of the London blackouts during the Second World War.
Patricia Frank (née McCormick) as Mary in 1938
Patricia McCormick was the daughter of the Reverend McCormick, the priest in charge at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. When John Frank, a young curate, came to work with her father, they fell in love and were married. The Reverend John Frank was assigned to work at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto, Canada.
As a new mother in her early twenties, Patricia decided to bring her beloved Christmas Story to her new church community in Canada. Beginning at age 21, Patricia produced and directed the pageant for 25 years. She even played the role of Mary in early presentations. Eventually, Patricia and John Frank were called back to England in the early 1960s, but The Christmas Story stayed.
Joan Robinson, who had been a wardrobe mistress under Patricia Frank's leadership, took over the reins of the Christmas Story for the next two decades, directing it until her death in 1982.
Wendy Farquar served as director from 1983 – 1986, followed by John Wynn in 1987 and 1988 and Charles Northcote in 1989. Mr. Northcote gave the pageant a significant facelift, introducing the stunning Gabriel wings you see today, and updating the lighting, staging and costumes.
Current director, Susan Watson was originally recruited by Wendy Farquar in 1983 to play the roles of the narrator and Rachael. She has been directing The Christmas Story since 1990.
Susan maintained a long-standing connection with the original director Patricia Frank. In 2012, when the pageant celebrated its 75th anniversary, greetings were received from Patricia, then 96, as well as from the Governor General and from Queen Elizabeth! Patricia died in 2014 at the age of 98, but the pageant she introduced to Canada continues to delight generations of parishioners and theatregoers.
The history of The Christmas Story continues to unfold. Thank you for being part of this tradition!