Monday, September 28, 2015

Looking ahead to Advent soup suppers -- "Cherry Tree Carol" and a moment of realization how the Holy Family was just like any other family when it came to food preparation

Blast email message for Clayville-Prairieland Academy of Music jam session list ...

So it's WHAT-tober? Already?!? Which means we have two sessions coming up in the next week:

-- Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon, Oct. 3, in the barn at Clayville Historic Stage Coach Stop, Ill. 125 in Pleasant Plains; and

-- Tuesday, from 7 to 9 p.m., Oct. 6, in the "narthex" (lobby) at Atonement Lutheran Church, 2800 W. Jefferson Ave., Springfield.

Let's just go around the circle and call tunes we want to play. No stress, no mess -- well, less mess -- that way. But let's make sure we call a couple of Christmas tunes. Atonement is going in with two other Springfield congregations in the building on West Jefferson, Faith and Luther Memorial, but I understand they've decided to continue the Wednesday night soup suppers in Advent, the season of the church year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Part of our deal with Atonement has been that we play at one of the suppers. It's been our way of saying thank-you for letting us have the space rent-free. While everything is up in the air because of the transition, I think we'll be invited to play again. So we've identified two songs we'd like to play:

1. "The Cherry Tree Carol"

Lead sheets w/ notation, chords and dulcimer tab at

2. "I Saw Three Ships on Christmas Day"

Lead sheets at

I will post links to YouTube clips -- some of them, vocals and instrumentals alike, are stunning -- along with some notes on how Joseph and Mary, the "queen of Galilee," were just like any other couple when it came to getting the food on the table! Links here:

FOUND IN THE BLACKSMITH'S SHOP AT CLAYVILLE after the Fall Festival, a white ring binder with guitar tab. We think we've found the owner, but I learned a long time ago never to go with what I "think." If it's yours, pls let me know by replying to this email message.

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Our dulcimer tab for the "Cherry Tree Carol" is by Ralph Lee Smith and Maddie McNeill, of a southern Appalachian version of the old English ballad that's very similar to the one sung by the late Jean Ritchie in the linked video clip. I never hear it without thinking of the time I was in a workshop of Ralph's at Western Carolina University. All was well until we got to the verse that says:

And Mary gathered cherries
While Joseph stood around.

There were at least a dozen women in the class, and three or four men. When we got to that line, every one of the women burst out laughing. Ralph looked up, confused, and the men looked around wondering what was so funny. Then I heard a voice on the other side of the classroom say, "Well, isn't that just like a man, standing around while the women do all the work?"

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Background [and tab] on "Cherry Tree Carol" at

We started singing it last year in the Betterton Cabin at Clayville's annual Christmas party, and we liked it so much we decided right then to work it up for this year's Advent program. In addition to the linked interpretations by Sting, Jean Ritchie and the Mark O'Connor bluegrass band, I found a very fine vocal by Seattle grunge and alt rock artist Mark Lanegan:

Background and YouTube clips on "I Saw Three Ships" at

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