THE BEST CHRISTMAS OF MY LIFE
The war ended in August, 1945. Tokyo was pretty well flattened by nightly bombings. My family lived in a half-destroyed concrete church building. My father was the pastor. We slept between mosquito-nets and a heavy silk drapes that used to hang behind the organ. I saw the first American soldiers on September 2nd, fully armed and looking scared. But after a week, they were no longer armed.
American soldiers started to come to worship with us. All were fluent in Japanese. They were intelligence officers. We hardly had enough to eat; our dream was to own shoes and have change of clothes. But we were extremely happy. No more bombing. “Peace was here!” We were worshiping together with former enemies.
Winter came. We made a fire, for warmth and cooking, under a hole in the roof made by a 500 lb incendiary bomb. We burnt broken furniture.
Just before Christmas, an American came by on a big Jeep and told us to get on, because, he said, “There is a Messiah concert at the University of Tokyo Auditorium.” We couldn’t believe it. But we got on anyway, my parents, my sisters, and I. It was a windowless Jeep.
The auditorium was the only one left in Tokyo with a big seating capacity. It was warm inside despite no heating system, because of people’s body heat.
The orchestra and the choir were a mixture of Japanese musicians in their worn out army uniforms and Americans. Only the soloists had the proper outfits. The conductor was a composer of Gospel music and a preacher in a local Pentecostal Church. When the tenor began, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people,” tears started fill my eyes. In the end, there was no dry eye in the whole auditorium.
It could not have been a good quality concert. They could not have had a proper rehearsal. We had no decent food, no change of clothes, no present, but we had each other. We had family, former foes and friends to warm up the auditorium. And the best of all we had PEACE!
It was the best Christmas of my life!
My father Coyd Taggart sang some or all of the bass solos for that concert, and I believe two others before Christmas. For him it was the perfect illustration of the power of music. He treasured that experience the rest of his life.
I found your blog last week Google-searching for links regarding the 1945 Christmas Messiah in Tokyo; I had done this before, but somehow my search parameters must have missed you. Now having read a few of your entries, I know a bit more about you, and can tell you how grateful I am to read your account of that part of your life.
You might appreciate knowing my dad went to Garrett Seminary shortly after his return from Tokyo, rather than going back to his radio career (he had been an announcer and on-air singer in Kansas). He chose to leave the pulpit only a few years later, dedicating his life to ministering to children affected by emotional and family dysfunction. He passed in 2000, but lives in me in so many ways. I had a 40-year career as a symphony violist, and every time I played Messiah I saw and heard him with me, such was the extent to which his account of December 1945 affected me. I may never know if you read my words, but it’s a miracle to be able to reach out to you, since you were there for an event that was so important to him.
May we always find our way back to that which we have in common, and find the fortitude to treat each other with compassion. Thanks for letting me comment.