Looking back at Mountain Snow & Mistletoe, 12/13/2007

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Editor’s Note: Mountain Snow and Mistletoe was a yearly concert that Chris Shaw and Bridget Ball did to celebrate the holidays here in the Capital Region. Nearly every year Don Wilcock would interview his friend Chris about the upcoming show and some sweet moments were captured in print. Nippertown is proud to share six of these over the few days before Christmas and post a new interview between Don and Chris on Christmas Day… Merry Christmas!!!

            “Each day is a gift. That’s why they call it a present.” Chris Shaw.

            Every year for the last 15 years or more, I’ve done an interview with Adirondack singer Chris Shaw in advance of Mountain Snow & Mistletoe, the holiday program he and his wife Bridget perform twice at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, the only show that literally sells out the theater two times over. This year it’s this Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 2. And every year I look forward to Chris’s take on the Christmas spirit.

As we sink deeper into the controversy over the fundamental value of religion, the separation of church and state, and the differences in beliefs that people use as excuses to attack those who are different from “us,” the value of this show becomes more and more precious. I look forward to the ritual of this interview with deeper and deeper relish.

            Chris and I decided to give ourselves an extra present this year and begin the process with a friend’s lunch, and although he hadn’t told me this in advance, his idea for the interview itself was to drive me through the Adirondacks showing me sights that inspired some of the songs in the show. The gift of friendship embodied in this act is worth more than anything you can find in a mall as you look over your shoulder for snipers.

            I called the day before the lunch to confirm and knew just from the way he said hello that something was terribly wrong. I had caught him at the hospital where he’d just been told his mother had cancer. He repeated to me the details the doctor had just told him in the way we all tell someone news we can’t believe is true as if by saying it, it would somehow manifest in acceptance of the grim reality. I waited several days before calling him again. We both discussed the options and decided to do the interview on the phone on a “snow day” when his sons were home from school and Bridgett had insisted he take time away from the hospital to decompress.

            “This is a test,” he said in the interview, “but it’s just the opposite of that old radio announcement where they say, ‘This is a test. If this had been the real thing…’ Well, this is a test of the real thing.”

            Sometimes the job of a journalist is a hard one. How do you run an interview with a man who lives at the very edge and still has a commitment to pulling off two shows of holiday cheer? Chris’s mom made it a little easier on him. Put quite simply, she would kill him if he cancelled the show. Still, I almost hated myself for wanting to score words of comfort and seasonal good cheer from a man facing the potential for such great and immediate loss.

On the other hand, I know enough about grief to know that such an exercise is good for a person going through the daily uncertainties Chris was facing. And when he came out with that quote at the beginning of this article I knew my old friend even in his time of hurt had given me a present just as he has every Christmas for so many years. At a time when he’s being put to the test, he still gives back words with both humor and the sage knowledge of a man twice his age.

            “I can’t see the situation right now with a great deal of perspective because I’m in the middle of it,” he said. “You can’t think too many steps ahead.  You have to take today and make the most of it.” Then, he said something that put things in sharp perspective. “I don’t think the event is going to change the energy of the show. The show is bigger than that. So, I think we’re all going to kind of get swept up in it, and it’s certainly going to be an intense performance.”

You can’t think too many steps ahead.  You have to take today and make the most of it.   

            The secret behind great gospel music is call and response. Chris’ friends have been called, and its time for us to respond. I have no question that the call and response will offer an intense performance and offer us all a lesson in the spirit of Christmas,

Contact Don Wilcock at donwilcock@msn.com

  • What: Mountain Snow & Mistletoe with Chris Shaw, Bridget Ball, John Kirk, Kevin McKrell and Brain Mellick
  • When: Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.
  • Where: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall
  • Tickets: $18 at 518-273-0038
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