Free Christmas music commences today.
If you want to skip the backstory, scroll to the bottom and you will find the mp3 file - and a list of the subsequent free songs.
Jack Langstaff died recently. When I lived in Cambridge in the 70s, his Christmas Revels were quite the thing. I was dazzled by the spectacle.
A few years after moving to Chapel Hill, I had this paranoid idea: "What if somebody starts a Christmas Revels here (it was kind of a franchise) and they don't invite me to participate?"
I found this idea so annoying that I decided to start one myself.
I called it the "Solstice Extravaganza" because I wasn't sticking to a Christian theme, and also because I was afraid otherwise I'd have to pay franchising fees. It was a do-it-yourself thing all the way.
In fact, it was definitely a case of "fools rush in where angels fear to tread." I was so green, I didn't even know I needed a director.
I just started inviting everybody I thought was cool to join in the show. By the time it opened, there were more than 250 performers. (In the picture above you will see my son Zed 4th from the left and my daughter Melina 6th from the left in the front row. We were all singing the Hannukah song "Hanerot Halalu" I think.)
Chuck Davis brought TWO groups performing African and African-American dance of the season. We had the Carmina Consort doing Sephardic music in Ladino; a sacred harp quartet in period garb; we had John Rosenthal doing a lengthy monologue. I myself had gathered TWO choruses (why wasn't one enough?) and arranged music and rehearsed both of them for months. There was a klezmer band, and Morris Dancers.
Then there were the mummers. Chris Turner of the Nee Ningy band had begun a mummer's play which his motley crew would stage at the winter and summer solstice. By the time I started the Solstice Extravaganza, Chris had left town, but his mummers were still around. Some lived in the woods. They were an unpredictable lot.
And more and more. I can't even remember all of them. Writer Aden Field (bottom row, left, picture above) signed on at the last minute to help with acting and traffic control, but even so the show was a lengthy though delightful mess.
You can see the "Band of Ages" or at least part of it on the right in this picture. They were with us from the start.
The show went on for years. We made a cassette called "Three Log Night" and since people are still writing me saying: "We wore our copy out - don't you have this on cd?" I now make "authorized bootleg" copies and sell them on my band's website.
Then the smaller of the singing groups, the "Solstice Assembly," went on to make two cds and perform at medieval fairs (this picture was taken at Castle McCullough) and even at Charleston's Piccolo Spoleto.
I loved the people in the Solstice Assembly to pieces. Those were some of the happiest musical years of my life, though I worried constantly.
The music I'm going to share with you over the next week is from the Solstice Assembly albums.
The first song is one of my favorite cuts on "Three Log Night." It was performed by Joe Newberry, maybe the best singer I know, and his friends Carl Jones and Andy Cahan (who you can see at the top right in this picture). I invited Joe, whom I knew only by reputation, in a record store; I marched right up to him and said "we've never met, but would you like to be in my show?" He said yes and I have loved him ever since.
They performed as "The Buds," a group I think was put together just for our show.
I sadly don't have a picture of the Buds. This is a picture of Joe (left) with Ed Norman, Randy Kloko, and Mitzi Quint, 4/5 of the group New Hope Harmony.
December 17: The Holly Bears a Berry
December 18: The Sussex Mummer's Carol
December 19: The Lord at First did Adam Make
December 20: Let Memory Keep Us All
December 21: Gedeonis Area
December 22: The Boar's Head Carol
December 23: The Very First Blessing Mary Had
December 24: We Have Only One More Shopping Day
December 25: The Gloucester Wassail
That's all, folks!
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