Christmas Day marks four months since the landfall of Hurricane Harvey. The Category 4 storm struck Rockport on Aug. 25, causing catastrophic destruction.
The high school was one of many buildings severely damaged. And for students, it looked like their annual choral Christmas show would be one more Harvey victim.
The running of scales and the tuning of instruments, the chaos before a symphony makes its own kind of music. But this pre-performance in Rockport has its own manic vibe.
The Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra is warming up for its Christmas program on a makeshift outdoor stage it’s sharing with the Rockport Fulton High School Choir.
“The kids lost their school. This is really an opportunity for them to get together and sing and bring the community together as well,” said Mark Francis, executive director of the Corpus Christi Symphony. “It’s part of the process of getting back to normal.”
Choir director Yvonne Jaggard said normal is something her students haven’t found yet.
“It’s hard. Every day, when I see these kids ... they come to school and they let you know: ‘We had no heat last night; we’re sleeping in a tent,’ " she said. “… Every day you hear a story and you can’t believe it — you just can’t.”
In addition to what the students lost at home, the hurricane destroyed the choir’s library of sheet music, their pianos, their choral room at school and the performance hall. They figured there was no way the choir could have their Christmas concert.
“Our auditorium was ruined, and we thought that there’s no way it’s going to happen,” said Alisa De La Garza, choir student president.
Without the auditorium, the Christmas concert was moved to the grassy grounds of the Fulton Mansion — a stately, four story Victorian home overlooking Aransas Bay. It was built in 1874 by cattle baron George Ware Fulton. The Texas Historical Commission fully restored the landmark, but then came Harvey.
“There’s significant damage," Sharon Flood said.
Flood gives tours of the Fulton Mansion when it’s open, but that won’t happen again for at least another year. It's estimated that it will cost a million dollars to repair. Flood says Christmas had always been a special time at the mansion.
“We’d have caroling out on the lawn, and everyone is dressed in costume, and then we’d let people walk through the house and serve gingerbread,” she said. “But not this year.”
In every way, this is a different kind of Christmas in Rockport. Storm debris remains piled on the roadside. Many families remain homeless or displaced. Hardly any houses are decked with holiday lights.
As the choir sings, they have a perfect view of the bay. Today it’s sunny, and the water’s calm. But all around are reminders that this was not always the case.
The healing power of music was on display as the Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra performed with youthful voices singing old wisdom.
It proved that there is still a Christmas in Rockport this year.