As each class took the stage for the Payson Elementary School (PES) Christmas Concert, students squinted to see past the bright stage lights into the audience.
Family members moved up to the foot of the stage to call out to their children. When the children finally found their family, a smile would light up their face, hands would shoot into the air and their whole body went into the wave.
At this age, a professional stage presence simply means nothing to the kindergarten, first- and second-graders from PES.
Their families did not care either. In fact many ringed the stage looking like paparazzi, cell phones and cameras in hand to capture the moment forever.
Yet as soon as PES music teacher Christie Varner stood in front of the students, they stopped fidgeting and all eyes focused on her every move.
Varner led the classes through the opening song, In The Spirit.
Between each song, Varner had emcees Candace Ewing, Christine Stone, Joy Utterback, and McKay Hintze (5 p.m. show) and Valerie Piazza, Hailey Deaton, Robert McAnerny and Kayda Rosser (6 p.m. show) introduce each song and even tell a couple of jokes.
Then the second grade classes sang jaunty arrangements of Glo-glo-glorious, and the World Says Merry Christmas.
Next up, the first-graders.
Varner split the grades between the two shows —then again in each show.
Each set filled the bleachers.
Varner had the wee ones grab a hand bell either colored green, yellow or orange. Up on stage, she flipped a chart directing the kids when to play based on their bell color. Some looked frustrated, some merely terrified — but the played beautifully.
When the first group of first-graders sang Mister Frosty Winter, the gestures to accompany the story the song made people laugh.
Varner then had the kindergartners perform.
The first set of kindergartners sang Jingle Jam with kazoos and then The Sound of Santa’s Workshop.
The second of kindergartners performed Jolly Old Saint Nicholas with kazoos and then a cute song about a wish — I Want to be an Elf.
One group sang, Santa’s Getting Fit For Christmas, as a pint-sized Santa walked back and forth on the stage to show off his slim physique.
Varner ended the concert with the song Christmas Wishes.
The concert went off without a hitch. Parent volunteers had helped decorate the stage to look like the inside of a house with two Christmas trees and garland draping the stage.
Principal Asa Hall said, “All I had to do was worry about everything,” he said, “(but) I have to thank the parent volunteers, teachers and support staff for all their help.”
He said Varner is amazing with how she pulls it all together.