LIVE: “Mountain Snow and Mistletoe” @ The Egg, 12/13/15
Review by Don Wilcock
Is Christmas just for kids? Should we fret when our children and grandchildren don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore? Hell, no – excuse me – Heavens, no. We should fret when we as adults don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore. Chris Shaw and Bridget Ball are Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus reconfigured for adults.
As natural as organic granola, with no pretense or guile, the beloved folk couple enfolded the sold-out crowd at The Egg’s Swyer Theatre like life-size teddy bears for their final presentation of “Mountain Snow and Mistletoe,” an enduring regional tradition that rightfully sold out weeks before this final performance.
Bridget gave us permission to tear up our Christmas to-do list. Chris retold the story of Uncle Walt – a patient man and a good hunter. His imagery so vivid it felt like seeing Donald Duck cartoons on color TV for the first time – right down to the details of Walt wearing a safety pin on his overalls in case he popped a button. The ubiquitous Irish band leader Kevin McKrell said, “Oh, what the heck, it’s the last show,” as he puffed on Christmas pipe as if it were primo reefer.
And indeed, it was the last show, the last time we’d see percussionist Brian Melick skittering around stage, the impish elf supplying sound effects for “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” and running into the audience to sprinkle pixie dust on an unsuspecting and innocent observer. The last time we’d see Trish Miller defying gravity as she clogged so hard to Christmas music that her heals threatened to leave bruises on her backside. The last time we’d see the avuncular professor John Kirk extend his mandolin like an offering plate while McKrell swung his microphone cord as if he were a priest anointing his parishioners with incense. The last time we’d see Buddha-like Tony Markellis supplying the foundation on his fretless bass.
Over the course of 25 years, each of the seven artists on stage has grown into a renowned veteran, turning songs like “Good King Wenceslas,” “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” into a mother’s hug. The exquisite Chris and Bridget duet on “Silent Night” accomplished the impossible – improving on whatever version dances in each of our heads.
Most of these songs are so ingrained in our collective consciousness that their words have long been buried by our individual memories of personal milestones played out in the tunes streaming through the player pianos of our minds. The show was bookended by “Light A Light” written by Bridget and appearing on their Mountain Snow and Mistletoe album: “Light a light like a star on a Christmas tree/Light a light in the window for the traveler to see/Light a light in the darkest time of year/Light a light, light a light, Christmas is here.”
At a time in the world where evil is perpetrated in the name of religion and freedom of religion has turned into freedom from religion, Chris and Bridget are uniquely able to fold the meaning of Christmas into the wink and nod of everyday life. Bridget asks why when a neighbor raises the hood of his car, all the men for a block around cluster around the engine. Chris says simply, it’s an ancient form of prayer. John Kirk tells a story about three guys trying to get into heaven who are asked to show something relating to the season on their person. The last guy shows a pair of women’s panties. How do they pertain? “They’re Carol’s.”
At the end of the night, Bridget threw her hands in the air. “This is it,” she said, not out of sadness, but as if ushering in a new chapter in her life, or perhaps a whole new book. “Thanks for 25 years. Write down all the things you have to do in a list, and rip it up. Enjoy the rest of the season.”
For their final encores, they sang “Let It Snow,” “White Christmas” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
And they were gone. But… but, if you believe in Santa, you have to know they’ll be back.