Volunteer Elves Work their Magic at Symphony Hall
On December 1, a select few
Christmas elves made an early appearance in Boston.
Armed with wreaths and ornaments, ribbons and Santa hats, and of course, homemade baked goods, 21 members of the Boston Symphony Association of Volunteers (BSAV) went to work adding holiday cheer - and lots and lots of garlands - to Symphony Hall.
The atmosphere was joyous. Most of the volunteers were members of the Flower/Decorating Committee. As volunteer Freyda Sanders said, "We're very close; we just had Thanksgiving dinner together!" Some, like Freyda, have been coming back annually for more than 15 years; a few others were returning for their second go-around. All had something to do.
While members of the BSO's Facilities department were up on ladders arranging wreaths in windows, volunteers got to work - some setting up trees and depositing "swag" and other ornaments as they saw fit, others chatting and enjoying the breakfast treats and camaraderie. And they switched tasks throughout the morning, of course.
"Because of my height, they have me do the tops of the trees," says Jerry Dreher, BSAV Boston Co-chair. "But nobody has specific ownership of anything, it's a whole group process . . . except that Stephanie Henry always trims the ribbon for Major Higginson's bowtie," he adds.
She did, indeed, but that didn't come until the end of the decorating process, as a sort of "topping-off" for the day. So before the bust of BSO founder Henry Lee Higginson could be crowned with a Santa hat, Christmas trees were to be decorated, a Hanukkah menorah was to be located, ornaments were to be hung from light fixtures, and poinsettias were to be placed strategically around the Hall.
"I help wherever's needed," says Bonnie Ekeland. "I think of this as a 'dry run' for decorating my house for the holidays." When pressed for her decorating tips, she looks at the tree she has been hanging with ornaments and ponders, "Stand back and then you'll see what's missing" - then adding another cluster of ornaments.
Mima Leivi, a veteran BSAV member, offers more advice: "Trust your instincts. And it's good to have two pairs of eyes - teamwork makes it run better." It certainly did that day. As Kevin Montague and Manager of Volunteer Services Erin Asbury worked garlands down the marble stairwells, Mima and fellow volunteers followed with extra ornaments to add as they saw fit. In no time flat, both stairwells were sparkling.
The garlands (600 feet of them!) had been packed up since last year's Holiday Pops season, 1,172 ornaments included, with all the other decorations - including 35 wreaths and nine trees - to be reused. Stored in four trunks at Tanglewood, they were trucked in to Boston for the BSAV to attack.
"One year, when the Pops was performing The Twelve Days of Christmas, we decorated the trees with numbers," says Jerry. "But generally, they go up every year in the same place and same way, so the returning volunteers have a good sense of what needs to be done."
This is not to make the yearly decoration ritual seem any less exciting; on the contrary, many BSAV members echoed volunteer Mima, who said she loved the "cheerful, festive mood" that put her in the holiday spirit. "We really like to liven the place up," adds Jerry. "It dresses up the Hall and gives it a whole new character."
That whole new character was on display throughout December's run of Holiday Pops performances, for all to enjoy the fruit of the BSAV's labors. Most anticipated of all the decorations came last, as a Santa hat was located, red ribbon was cut, and then both found their way to the bust of Major Higginson in the O'Block/Kay Room.
"Are you ladies dressing or undressing your boyfriend?" chuckled Suzanne Andeway, as Project Lead Linda Clarke and Assistant Manager of Development Events and Volunteer Services Kathleen Pendleton readied Higginson. "Dressing!" came Linda's response. "And it took us a long time to even get the hat on him. For a few years we were just sneaking the bowtie on."
All in a day's work for the BSAV. Many would come back a week later to further 'deck the Hall' for the corporate event A Company Christmas at Pops, enjoying the festive atmosphere once again . . . until next year.