The music search began with a suggestion that some people might like either star-shaped dishcloths or ornaments this year. Yes, there were lovely pictures of both dishcloths and ornaments on internet as designed for the season by Annie’s Attic or Martha Stewart.
By Rita Maisel
Links to sites offering their detailed patterns needed specific charge cards and were costly. Plus, I do not actually read patterns so the musical search was designed to provide inspiration for inventing my own designs. Even if that did not happen, a Christmas classic find like Star of the East might be a possible prelude for one of several upcoming church services.
As many readers know, each December usually starts with the story behind a favorite carol or Christmas music that many of you might be humming these days. Having covered most of the popular carols in recent years, as I searched through the shelf of music my mind was wandering back to some of the real oldies like possibly the first Christmas sheet music I had ever owned. Mary, Did You Know? was right on top next to Gesu Bambino, a favorite since high school when Mrs. DeVold introduced us to that composition. It was easy to find A Star Was His Candle and the Christmas Lullaby dating back to the early 1950s, but where was Gene Autry on a red covered sheet music introducing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? Where was the pictured Frosty dripping in blue designs on the cover of his music? No purple sheet music for Star of the East surfaced, no snowflake decorated sheets titled Winter Wonderland or Let it Snow! Let it Snow!, Let it Snow were found, and finally I had to consult internet to even find the pictured music of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.
That sheet music I remembered being given as a long-ago gift, had a green cover with Santa and the reindeer driving diagonally down from the top and should still have the 15-cent price tag from De Vold’s store prominently displayed. If the music is still around I could not locate all those well-remembered titles. An internet search produced the information that Santa Claus Is Coming to Town had been No. 1 in sheet music sales for many seasons and was originally introduced on the Eddie Cantor Christmas show in 1934 although it had been written earlier by a song-writing team whose name did not become well known. Wikipedia added the information that everyone who was anyone had recorded it in the years that followed and listed the more famous, ending with Justin Biewer, who apparently is the current leader in sales. My guess is that the music first reached our house sometime in the 1940s. I know we sang it often, but whether I ever learned to play it is forgotten. It is safe to say you will hear it often in December 2017.
While strolling through a store looking for ideas for Christmas and some up-coming baby showers, the title of a relatively new book almost jumped off the shelves and into my cart. The book is titled “I Love You to the Moon and Back”. It brought back memories of David Field and his daughter, Emma, who years ago used that phrase during Dave’s many hospital trips, so I bought it to read. Once I had it home, I noticed the credits inside the book mentioned it had been written and illustrated in 2015 – several years after Dave’s death. The timeline seemed wrong but the book, still a great gift for a small child, deals with the loving relationship between a parent and child which still described Dave and Emma, at least to me. The illustrations by Tim Warner are wonderful. The text was written by Amelia Hepworth of London, England. The current book published in China is part of the Tiger Tales collection of children’s books.
The history of the phrase revealed that Ms. Hepworth did not originate the saying which has been used in several movies, featured in song and poetry and also given birth to a line of jewelry designed for lovers of all ages. Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton are credited with the lyrics for a song with this title, later recorded by others as a lullaby, and one version of the origin credits it to Facebook moms who routinely use it in posting to their children. However, the book which pairs the Hepworth text with the Warner illustrations is very sweet and will probably be around until today’s little ones are reading it over and over to their own children or grandchildren.
A second thought inspired by the book is that the bear and cub in the story spend time outdoors in the snow gazing at the moon and stars. As a small child growing up in Langdon without street lights, except on Main St., we walked wherever we went often at night and on top of the snowbanks. Streets other than the highway and part of downtown were not plowed during the winter months so we had ample opportunity to view the moon and stars in those days. My mother would point out the constellations and tell us some of the old legends about them. A ring around the moon was a special feature to watch for. We would count the stars inside the ring and then wait to see if it snowed in that many days. It proved to be one weather forecasting trick that was often correct. If you live in a rural area that may still be possible in North Dakota. It was sad to learn, when teaching in Denver, that my students never saw stars and rarely even the moon eluded them due to the city smog cover.
While thinking about Dave Field and his battle against melanoma, an e-mail arrived about the late Stuart McLean, who many of us learned to enjoy through his long years of writing and broadcasting on the CBC. As a writer and humorist, he was often on Sunday evening shows from Winnipeg. Eventually he went on to host the Vinyl Café, a show about hapless Dave who ran a record shop next door to a bookshop and down the street from Kenny Wong’s Chinese Restaurant which served Scottish food. Each week we were treated to another Dave and Morley story with a few featuring their children Sam and Stephanie plus all their neighbors. Along with these sketches which were often hilarious the show introduced Canada to Canadians and anyone else who listened.
The show broadcasts came from Cape Breton, Vancouver, Yellow Knife, White Horse or places only Stuart could pronounce, and I would not attempt to spell. Beginning in the fall they did a series of Christmas Shows with Winnipeg always on the schedule and sold out long before Stuart and crew came to town. In the spring they gave out “Arthurs” to ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Listeners could nominate the recipients. The original Arthur was the story-book Dave and Morley’s long-suffering dog. Arthur recipients were people who bicycled across Canada, small town characters and people others might tend to forget.
In 2015 Stuart was diagnosed with melanoma and since that was the diagnosis for Langdon’s Dave Field, the situations became intertwined in the minds of some local people. Stuart McLean died earlier this year. His show has been off the air for a several months but will return during the Christmas season for a final Christmas Special. Local listeners can find this show Dec. 17 at 12 p.m.(noon), Dec. 19 at 11 p.m., and Dec. 21 at 1 p.m. on the CBC stations from Winnipeg. The christmas show will include new material written for last year and not previously used plus some old favorites like “Dave cooks the turkey”. Yes, mayhem follows.
The Vinyl Café staff has compiled a new book of previously unpublished stories “Christmas at the Vinyl Café,” and a new CD titled “The Unreleased Stories.” Proceeds from sales of these items plus Vinyl Café Toques (hats) will go to the local food banks of Canada. Stuart McLean’s archives of stories, books and records have been donated to McMaster University where he taught at times. Older published works are also available on Amazon.com. Some of his books are available on inter-library loan through the library at Langdon.