Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bring out the tall tales now


Mandola  Joe and Pat O

I come to the church to get everything ready for Sunday. Missing Teddy, of course. Stephen is there ready to do everything he can to help me. Purple covering for the table again. Advent wreath, candles. Anna comes in again, just to see what’s going on, puppy with her. Wondering about Dan. What we can do to keep him out of jail, which would benefit no one. 

I finish the worship service. Danielle will be in later. I’ve got to go out and do some Christmas shopping. Running out of time. 

I come back to pick up the copies of Dylan Thomas’ Child’s Christmas in Wales, but RL has picked them up already. 

I meet TL, Poet Tim, Mandola Joe and Irish Pat O at the Gate. RL has divided the text into parts and is preparing us for his production. RL’s favorite part begins with Bring out the tall tales now... but when I share my own memories, he cedes it to me and decide he’ll wrap it up and bring it to conclusion.

My memory? Our very first Comfort Ye! concert back in 1995. In addition to Lauren and her opera singers, I got my clergy colleagues.  to do readings from the season. My friend Alistair had this one. We came directly from his Christmas party for us, with ample single malt. With his Scottish brogue, his rendering of Good King Wenceslas in a small dry voice ...was truly Dylanesque and memorable. 

We walk up the cold streets to the Kateri residence to do a performance for RL’s wife Joan (Harvey). Temporarily in residence there. Named for Kateri Tekawitihi, the first Native American saint, perhaps fitting given RL’s Indian reservation upbringing.

Kateri Tekakwitihi

It’ s planned as a surprise. RL goes in first. Then, on cue, Poet Tim. Then me. Harvey’s face lighting with each successive entry. Then Poet Tim and finally Pat. The Thomas text flows in its homey warmth, just north of nostalgia. And Harvey laughs. 

Mandola Joe plays and I give a Good King Wenceslas. RL brings his Who’s That Fat Man? Pat backs up Mandola then brings his own version of Delta Dawn. Harvey’s roommate is enjoying our performance and Pat walks over to greet her personally. Nurses are coming in. Other patients wheeling into the room until there’s no room left for our impromptu concert.

There are carols. And of course RL finishes with his Red Ryder and the fat lady....his tribute to his Aunt Mabel at a Christmas long ago. Which he read as we finished our clean up at the very first Crafts Fair and Balcony Music Festival two Decembers ago. Which opened my eyes to RL as his words entered the West-Park walls. Let’s say his piece evokes the western Americana  I knew in a way I think Dylan Thomas would appreciate. 
RL and Poet Tim

And soon it is time to go. Back into the cold streets. And I am thankful for this moment of Christmas grace in a much too harsh season.

from Dylan Thomas...

Bring out the tall tales now that we told by the fire as the gaslight bubbled like a diver. Ghosts whooed like owls in the long nights when I dared not look over my shoulder; animals lurked in the cubbyhole under the stairs and the gas meter ticked. And I remember that we went singing carols once, when there wasn't the shaving of a moon to light the flying streets. At the end of a long road was a drive that led to a large house, and we stumbled up the darkness of the drive that night, each one of us afraid, each one holding a stone in his hand in case, and all of us too brave to say a word. The wind through the trees made noises as of old and unpleasant and maybe webfooted men wheezing in caves. We reached the black bulk of the house. "What shall we give them? Hark the Herald?"
"No," Jack said, "Good King Wencelas. I'll count three." One, two three, and we began to sing, our voices high and seemingly distant in the snow-felted darkness round the house that was occupied by nobody we knew. We stood close together, near the dark door. Good King Wencelas looked out On the Feast of Stephen ... And then a small, dry voice, like the voice of someone who has not spoken for a long time, joined our singing: a small, dry, eggshell voice from the other side of the door: a small dry voice through the keyhole. And when we stopped running we were outside our house; the front room was lovely; balloons floated under the hot-water-bottle-gulping gas; everything was good again and shone over the town.
"Perhaps it was a ghost," Jim said.
"Perhaps it was trolls," Dan said, who was always reading.
"Let's go in and see if there's any jelly left," Jack said. And we did that.

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