Monday, December 23, 2013

1991 | dec 13, 14, 20, 21 | premiere of christmas presence | set lists

In preparation for last night's performance of Christmas Presence In The Valley, wanting to keep things fresh, I was searching for the 2012 Valley set list, to avoid repeats. Instead I found the set lists for the very first Christmas Presence events, hosted by Bill Reimer and the Regent College Book Store. It was four or five months after we had cancelled our mainstage season (Book Of The Dragon, Billy Budd, Mass Appeal) and laid ourselves off - all except one employee, who kept the Dragons Project on the road for one last year.

So it turns out there were four nights, plus an evening on a carol ship where I read a bunch of pieces - I don't yet have a date for that event. I had only remembered that there were one or two performances that first year. The notes aren't completely clear, but it looks like maybe there wasn't music until the second night, when Michael Hart did at least one song (Mary Did You Know) and some singalongs? I would have thought that if he was there, he would have done more than just the one tune, but maybe not: the show grew out of some evenings of readings I had done previously at the Regent Bookstore (Ron Reads, and, later, during the baseball strike, Ron Reed Strikes Again. The Top Ten Thousand Of All Time premiered at one of those evenings, in summer 1992), and they hadn't featured music, so it was all still in transition, even over the course of these few nights.  

The second weekend I was joined by Dirk Van Stralen, Allen Desnoyers and Lucia Frangione. I have a memory of Dirk losing his composure while reading a Joseph piece, being a fairly new dad - seems to me it was Joseph's Lullaby, by Ron Klug - though that's not clear from these notes.  Could have been the next year, or just as likely we swapped that piece in during the night - even in these first set lists it's apparent that we hadn't settled on the exact readings, or the order, before the show began. So that tradition goes right back to the start.

I notice how many of the readings are still in the rotation today - the Royko and the Buechner from that first night both made appearances last night, and over the 14-show run of Christmas Presence in 2013, the only pieces that weren't read at one point or another were Remnant, the Nemerov Santa Claus, A Time to Be Born (Loren's piece about Simeon), Political Necessity and Rachel.  Also the longer pieces, which no longer fit in the show, with so many more musicians; short stories by Mike Mason, G.K. Chesterton and Tom Bodett.  On the closing night I see "Tape" after mention of Ferlinghetti's poem Christ Climbed Down - I remember discovering that Teacup's Jazzy Blues Tune, from the Taj Mahal album "Ooh So Good 'n' Blues," fit perfectly behind the beat poem.  

I don't see mention of Evelyn Loewen here, though I have a distinct memory of her playing her harp. Maybe she didn't figure in until the next year?  Or maybe she was a late add, and wasn't mentioned in the set lists? I also think Garth Bowen joined us in early days, but now I'm thinking it wasn't until at least 1992. I also see that Nancy Iremonger was there on the final Saturday, reading a story. 

"That was a long, long time ago. And a long, long way away...." Frederick Buechner 


Friday 13

A Christmas Carol / Charles Dickens
Pretty Well Picked Over / Mike Royko
God In The Doorway / Annie Dillard
Emmanuel / Frederic Buechner & Madeleine L'Engle
Christ Climbed Down / Lawrence Ferlinghetti
A Child's Christmas In Texas / John Henry Falk      6:30
The Ghost Of Christmas / Mike Mason

Saturday 14

Remnant / Ron Reed 2:00
Cotton Patch Nativity / Clarence Jordan, Tom Key 4:00
   Christ Climbed Down / Lawrence Ferlinghetti 4:00
   Santa Claus / Howard Nemerov
   Driving To Midnight Mass / John F. Dean
   Reverie / John Howison
Shem or Seth / David Kossoff 8:00
Mary Did You Know? (Michael) 5:00
Joseph's Lullbye / Ron Klug 2:00
A Child's Christmas In Texas / John Henry Falk 6:30
Singalong carol
The Innocence Of Father Brown / G.K. Chesterton
Singalong carol

Friday 20

A Time To Be Born I / Loren Wilkinson
 The Town Tree / Tom Bodett
Christ Climbed Down / Lawrence Ferlinghetti
A Child's Christmas In Texas / John Henry Falk 6:30
A Time To Be Born II / Loren Wilkinson (Ron)
  First Coming / Victor Sanchez de Fuentes (Dirk, or company)
  Seth / a shepherd (Dirk?)
  Herod (Dirk?)
  The Innkeeper (Dirk?)
  A Man of Duty (Dirk?)
Sandals & Starlight (Allen)
Political Necessity / Ron Reed (Dirk)
Rachel / Loren Wilkinson (Lucia)
A Time To Be Born / Loren Wilkinson (Ron)
Joseph's Lullabye / Ron Klug (Allen)

Saturday 21

Charlie Brown "O Christmas Tree" (Tape)
Christ Climbed Down / Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Ron & Tape)
  Not in order:
   Juggler of Notre Dame (Nancy)
   God In The Doorway / Annie Dillard (Lucia)
   A Child's Christmas in Texas / John Henry Falk (Ron)     
Charlie Brown medley (Allen)
Christmas Time Is Here (Singalong)
The Gospel According To St. Luke (Dirk)
The Secret Of The Gifts / Paul Flucke (The Company)
Little Town (Allen)
For The Time Being / W.H. Auden (Ron)


A Christmas Carol / Charles Dickens 1:15
God In The Doorway / Annie Dillard 5:00
Christ Climbed Down / Lawrence Ferlinghetti 4:20
The Secret Of The Gifts / Paul Flucke 12:00
A Child's Christmas In Texas / John Henry Falk 6:30

Shem / David Kossoff 
First Coming / Victor Sanchez de Fuentes 
Pretty Well Picked Over / Mike Royko 
Joseph's Lullbye / Ron Klug 

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