Monday, December 19, 2011

A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES, Storytelling in New York (c) By Polly Guerin

As great holiday music celebrates the Christmas season there’s but one very special sentimental journey back to simpler, innocent times of wonder and fantasy and that is the epic poem/story, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas, which was produced recently by the Chelsea Opera Company with the Chelsea Opera Chamber Orchestra under the baton of the brilliant Maestro Carmine Aufiero. Here’s the scoop!!!
DYLAN THOMAS Just a year before his death in 1953 noted poet Dylan Thomas recorded A Child’s Christmas in Wales, a classic that has become one of the all time holiday favorites and his most recognized story. New York City composer Matthew Harris’ choral cantata poignantly captures the Christmas spirit and the humor in Thomas’s ageless story. Its sentimentality tugs at our hearts with nostalgic yearnings to go back and remember what a childhood was like in that seaside village in Wales.
ONE CHRISTMAS WAS SO MUCH LIKE ANOTHER Many of us can relate to Thomas’s opening lines, “One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.”
FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!!! “Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas Eve” leads us through a merry chase as the excitement, clamor and gong ringing cause such a ruckus that the firemen arrive in their shining helmets, standing among smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs. Adding to the absurdness of the situation, Miss Prothero says to the firemen, “Would like anything to read?”
THE UNCLES reminds us so much about uncles at our house. Thomas recalls, “There were always Uncles at Christmas. The same Uncles. They sat in front of the fire, loosened all buttons, put their large moist hands over their watch chains, groaned a little and slept.” But there were aunties, too. “Auntie, Bessie, who had already been frightened twice, by a clockwork mouse, whimpered at the sideboard and had some elderberry wine. After some hilarious antics in the snow and a fantasy hippo enactment the children head home.
SINGING CAROLS Thomas waxes nostalgic, “I remember that we went singing carols once, when there wasn’t the shaving of a moon to light the flying streets, and always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang Cherry Ripe, and another uncle sang Drake’s Drum. It was very warm in the little house. I got into bed, I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.”
This endearing story referenced here is only an abbreviated sampling of the sentimentality that Thomas conveys through his recollections. It gives us pause to wonder and reflect on the similarities in our own Christmas celebrations replete with eccentric family members. However, most of all we may all feel better for having vicariously experienced this very quaint Christmas tale. It’s the kind of story that deserves reading to a new generation of children and grownups who will be carried away to a seaside village and A Child’s Christmas in Wales.

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