Christmas Without Snow
Drama, Musical, Holiday | 95 Mins | Released: 1980
Director: John Corty
Starring: Michael Learned, John Houseman, Ramon Bieri, James Cromwell, Valerie Curtin, David Knell, Calvin Levels
Our Rating: 6
Leaving her son behind at her parents’ home in Omaha, Neb., recent divorcée Zoe (Michael Learned) attempts to start her life anew by moving to San Francisco. Seeking something to fill her lonely hours, she begins singing with a church choir. When new choirmaster Ephraim Adams (John Houseman) is hired, Zoe finds his attitudes and ideas difficult to tolerate. Faced with the challenging task of satisfying Adams’ unrelenting perfectionism, Zoe is tempted once more to run away from her problems.
A divorcee, Zoe Jensen (Michael Learned), moves to San Francisco from Omaha in an effort to rebuild her life. She has reluctantly left her young son back home with his grandmother until she is more financially secure. She joins a local church choir which has just gained a new, demanding choirmaster—retired music conductor Ephraim Adams (John Houseman). Adams challenges the choir to dramatically improve, creating discomfort for some of the members, particularly when he sets the high goal of performing Handel‘s Messiah for a Christmas concert. Meanwhile, the choir overcome personal setbacks as they all deal with personal issues.
A teacher by profession, Zoe soon learns no positions are available and that she lacks training to perform more readily available work. Living in an inexpensive flat, she brushes up her typing skills in order to gain employment before her mother wearies of looking after her son, who is growing anxious from his separation from Zoe.
Zoe receives her grounding at church, where an assortment of inner-city residents range from a former opera singer to a student seeking to educate himself for a life in a profession. The opera singer falls by the wayside when ego gets in her way, while the student is falsely accused of vandalism simply because of his race, yet is vindicated by those who know and believe in him. Together, they persevere in the church choir. Along the way, Zoe finds an office job and, with the help of a bargain hunter, prepares a pleasant home for her son and herself.
Unexpected talent abounds within the choir. The amateurs give their best as ones who perform for the love of the music. This love extends far beyond the choir loft. When vandals damage the pipes to the church organ, the choir band together to make the needed repairs.
At a pre-performance holiday dinner the choir sees a different side of Ephraim Adams as he presents gifts to the choir members and joins in the merriment. Weakness suddenly overtakes him and he collapses; at a local hospital it is determined he has had a stroke.
The choir performs the Messiah admirably at the Christmas concert, accompanied by the vintage organ, with a wheelchair-bound Adams in attendance. The choir has progressed far beyond an unlikely group of city dwellers. They have become a family.