Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 23

The Wild Wood Carol
by John Rutter, and performed by
The Cambridge Singers

Sing O the wild wood, the green holly,
The silent river and barren tree,
The humble creatures that no man sees,
Sing O the wild wood.

A weary journey one winter's night,
No hope of shelter, no rest in sight,
Who was the creature that bore Mary?
A simple donkey.

And when they came into Bethl'hem town,
They found a stable to lay them down,
For their companions that Christmas night,
An ox and an ass.

And then an angel came down to earth,
To bear the news of the Saviour's birth,
The first to marvel were shepherds poor,
And sheep with their lambs.

"The voices ceased, the singers, bashful but smiling, exchanged sidelong glances, and silence succeeded--but for a moment only. Then, from up above and far away, down the tunnel they had so lately travelled was borne to their ears in a faint musical hum the sound of distant bells ringing a joyful and clangorous peal.

`Very well sung, boys!' cried the Rat heartily. `And now come along in, all of you, and warm yourselves by the fire, and have something hot!'

...It did not take long to prepare the brew and thrust the tin heater well into the red heart of the fire; and soon every field- mouse was sipping and coughing and choking (for a little mulled ale goes a long way) and wiping his eyes and laughing and forgetting he had ever been cold in all his life..."

--From Kenneth Grahame's classic work, "The Wind in the Willows", Dulce Domum

For as long as I can remember, "The Wind in the Willows" has been an integral part of our family's Christmastime.

Many years ago, my English grandfather perfected the hobby of planning and executing meticulous reel-to-reel recordings of a wide variety of BBC programs.  Upon Grand-dad's death in 1969, my own father inherited a sizable collection of these enormous spools, and set about transferring them first to cassettes, then later to CDs.  

One of my most prized possessions is a copy of a radio drama from the 1950s, of Kenneth Grahame's masterpiece, "The Wind in the Willows".  When my brother, sister and I were small, we used to beg to hear installments of the program each night, leading up to Christmas-- and then we would gorge ourselves on the story (particularly "The Adventures of Mr. Toad") on Christmas Day.  

The tradition continues.

When I was in labour with my children, it was the stories of Toad, Rat, Mole and Badger that calmed me through long hours in hospital.

My own children-- the third generation of listeners-- are now enjoying the recording, and I like to think that Grand-dad is eminently pleased that his wonderful gift continues to give such pleasure to his family.

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