Oh Christmas trees

By Donna Lampkin Stephens

You can call David Glaze “Mr. Christmas” because he just couldn’t help himself. Glaze, artistic director and conductor of Little Rock’s River City Men’s Chorus, had intended for 2021 to be his last big Christmas hurrah.

“I have always truly loved the holiday season and all the decorations that go along with that time of year,” he said. “However, because October, November and December are the busiest months of the year for me (rehearsals, rehearsals, rehearsals), my own personal decorating at home has usually been little more than a Christmas tree and a few other knick-knacks around the house.”

Over the last decade or so, though, he had enjoyed changing the color scheme each year — maybe all red, or silver and lime green, gold/bronze/copper, all white — and sometimes combinations of all.

Photos by Mike Kemp

“After years and years of ever-changing color palettes, to say that I had quite a collection of Christmas decorations would be an understatement,” he said. “The attic was full.”

A self-taught artist, he would create a new abstract painting for the last several years to match whatever colors he’d chosen for the tree. But in the midst of the pandemic, he decided it was time to pare things down — after one final splash in 2021.

“I was going to pull every bit out and put it all up,” he said. “I’d never done that. Then, when it was time to take it all down, I planned to sort and throw away and give away and decide what to keep.” His bounty required him to buy more trees.

The final tally for ’21? Eight — four 9-footers, two 7.5-footers and two 4-footers. Here is his description of each:

“Just inside the front door was the 9-foot gold/bronze/copper/silver tree. The decorations on the sideboard in the dining room matched this color scheme and featured conical-glittered trees and gold reindeer.

“The 9-foot tree in the living room beside the fireplace was decorated in all red and different shades of green (lime, emerald, etc.). The double garland on the mantle matched the tree.

“The 7.5-foot tree in the piano room was done in all white and silver snowflakes and icicles. There was a snowscape on the grand piano featuring conical trees and tiny white lights.

“The 4-foot tree in the room adjacent to the kitchen was sentimental for me in that it was the last tree my mother had in her assisted living facility before she died at almost 102 years old.

“The 7.5-foot tree in my bedroom was flocked and was decorated in all blue ornaments, mostly seafoam and light teal.

“The 9-foot tree in the TV room was decorated entirely and solely of ornaments given to me through the years by my piano students, by members of my children’s choirs from years in church work, and of course, by good friends. How much fun I had when unwrapping these special ornaments. Also displayed in this room was most of my Santa collection. Some of the Santas made their way to other parts of the house.

“The 4-foot tree sitting in a metal tub on my kitchen island was decorated with the first ornaments I bought myself when first living on my own. I had no money, so they obviously weren’t too expensive. Also on this tree were some candle holders (for real candles) that I brought home from a trip to Germany. Also in the kitchen was my Dickens Village collection, displayed with cotton snow and greenery over the stove and on countertops on either side.

“The 9.5-foot tree on the front porch was simply decorated in tiny white lights and ribbons to match the red, green and gold decor around the front doors. The wreaths on the doors were very traditional — my favorite — fir with red velvet bows.”

Besides all the trees, he also placed several nativity sets around the house. The massive decorating project started in late October. Glaze had aimed for the weekend after Thanksgiving to unveil the masterpiece for friends.

“I saw I was not going to meet my deadline, so I called my friend Judy Davis, who is a freelance designer, one of those who in October and November is busy every day putting up Christmas decorations with clients,” he said. “I called and said, ‘I’m overwhelmed; you’ve got to come help me.’ She was really important in getting everything in place.”

Glaze, who grew up in Camden, credits his mother, the late Rubye Glaze, for his love of all things Christmas. “It was just always a big deal,” he remembered. “She started early in the fall trying to think how we would decorate the front door, what color we would flock the tree. One year we had some pink paint at the house, and she had my dad attach it to a spray gun, and it was actually pretty and kind of different. She was creative and made a lot of ornaments.”

Taking everything down after the holidays last year — sorting, packing, cleaning up all the glitter — was also a monumental task.“I even found some glitter in my dog Midas’ bowl,” he said. “But it was such a joy for me that I couldn’t get rid of anything, and I went to extremes again this year.” He encouraged others not to feel as though they have to buy all new things.

“The point is to use the things that you have and the things that you love and the things that bring good memories to mind,” he said. “If you need to freshen up with a few things, sprigs here and there, do that, but use what you have.” 

He promises the memories will be worth it.

Donna Stephens
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