Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas in the Trenches (John McCutcheon)

Last night we presented John McCutcheon in our second-Saturday-of-the-month concert series - words fail me!

As one of our attendees posted to our local folk list:

I have heard John McCutcheon's music for years and experienced his opening address at Folk Alliance a few years ago. His talent, wit, and intellect always commanded my respect. But, I must confess, sitting three rows from the stage provided a vantage point on this remarkable individual. From his opening banjo and narrative on Bascar Lamar Lunsford, McCutcheon captivated us. He is a skilled and consummate musician, playing banjo, guitar, hammer dulcimer, autoharp, piano, unaccompanied vocal, and spoken word. His stage presence combines charisma with a natural, folksy style. He impresses as a very real, sincere, humorous, and outspoken fellow.

I wrote earlier in the week that this impending concert had me extremely anxious - I could not have been proven more wrong. John was accessible, gracious and down-to-earth, the entire show (from stories to songs) was captivating and polished and the room was full with an appreciative audience - the evening was bliss, and I glowed and floated my way home... :-)
My running pre-concert PR gag was... John McCutcheon is such a legend that his website is - check it out to see when he's coming to a town near you... and then go, go, go!

Today I'm showcasing one of John's most famous songs, a tune he said last night that he's asked to play year-round, despite its Christmastime theme - it has become a classic (rightfully so) and is on my holiday mix this year...

For the backstory of the 1914 Christmas truce, see here... and here...

P.S. Another SMM...

POEM: In California During the Gulf War by Denise Levertov

Among the blight-killed eucalypts, among
trees and bushes rusted by Christmas frosts,
the yards and hillsides exhausted by five years of drought,

certain airy white blossoms punctually
reappeared, and dense clusters of pale pink, dark pink—
a delicate abundance. They seemed

like guests arriving joyfully on the accustomed
festival day, unaware of the year's events, not perceiving
the sackcloth others were wearing.

To some of us, the dejected landscape consorted well
with our shame and bitterness. Skies ever-blue,
daily sunshine, disgusted us like smile-buttons.

Yet the blossoms, clinging to thin branches
more lightly than birds alert for flight,
lifted the sunken heart

even against its will.
But not
as symbols of hope: they were flimsy
as our resistance to the crimes committed

—again, again—in our name; and yes, they return,
year after year, and yes, they briefly shone with serene joy
over against the dark glare

of evil days. They are, and their presence
is quietness ineffable—and the bombings are, were,
no doubt will be; that quiet, that huge cacophany

simultaneous. No promise was being accorded, the blossoms
were not doves, there was no rainbow. And when it was claimed
the war had ended, it had not ended.

QUOTE: "People can't concentrate properly on blowing other people to pieces if their minds are poisoned by thoughts suitable to the twenty-fifth of December." ~ Ogden Nash


  1. Susan, I'm sorry we had other obligations and weren't able to attend this one, it sounds fabulous!

  2. Hey, M ~

    Oh, no worries - I know it's a crazy time of the year, when each and every day is accounted for, sometimes multiple times!

    It *was* an amazing evening, though - P.S. I'll be dropping off your mix sometime tomorrow... :-)