Looking back at Mountain Snow & Mistletoe, 12/18/2008

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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!!!

Maybe just at Christmas time is on our side

            I was explaining to Chris Shaw a recent observation I’ve had about life: when something really awful happens if I open my eyes, ears and mind, something really wonderful almost always happens nearly simultaneously. And if I concentrate on the negative, I will lose out on experiencing the wonder of that wondrous yin to the awful yang.

            “Congratulations, Don. What you just articulated is what Christmas and the (Mountain Snow and Mistletoe) show is all about,” says Chris Shaw. “You can’t be open to seeing good things happen if you don’t take the time to look.” Chris and his wife Bridget Ball will host this 13th annual family holiday show at Troy Saving Bank Music Hall Saturday night at 8 and Sunday afternoon at 2.

            We make our own reality in this world, and this year more than any in recent history is conspiring to create a bah-humbug reality. We are in a holding pattern between an old regime that has an Iraqi journalist throwing his shoes at President Bush and the new reality of a bi-racial President Obama ready to inspire us to see the world as a place where we all pull together against multiple wars and a global recession that has people losing their jobs by the millions. In the midst of that holding pattern, we need to give ourselves permission to exhale slowly and absorb the message of Christmas.

            “You can take the time, or you can just let time take you,” says Shaw whose Mountain Snow and Mistletoe experience has become a treasured regional tradition. Time is money – an ever more elusive commodity – and there is a week less this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas to think of ways to show our Christian love to those closest to us. So, how do we find the time to see a show that reminds us of the constant that is Christmas?

            I’ve been writing about this show for 18 years. In that time, it has become one of my constants. Shaw calls such constants a post in the wind. “See, the rules that apply to everything else, Don, don’t apply to Christmas. I’m sorry. You and I didn’t make that up. That’s just the way the world works, and I think the thing that the media has a problem with is the fact they gotta paint everything as new, hip or having some kind of new angle, a new sell, or they’re afraid it’s not gonna take off and go. Well, this just in! Christmas has been going for 2008 years, and I don’t think it needs to be re-invented.”

            I call Mountain Snow and Mistletoe a traditional show, but we in music journalism have fiddled with that word “traditional” to fit a changing landscape. And, yes, even this show has some changes in store this year. While the songs themselves remain largely the same taken from Chris and Bridget’s Adirondack back pack of folksy staples with familiar guests like fiddler John Kirk and percussionist Brian Melick, Shaw hints that there may be some new wrinkles around the Uncle Walt Christmas dinner yarn that’s eclipsed Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” as the area’s most loved holiday tall story. You see, Shaw’s invited an old friend new to this show named Roy Hurd a.k.a. Poncho.

You can take the time for Christmas, or you can just let time take you.

            “Roy would like to do something with me in terms of story telling. That will probably include something to do with Uncle Walt. It might be a tag team,” explains Shaw. “We’re trying to stretch out a little bit and try something new. He’s a real good story teller. We actually did something like that at the Field, Forest and Stream Festival in Elizabethtown where we just started to go one off the other and took right off. The crowd went nuts. It’s a real challenge because you don’t want to over think something like that where it becomes contrived.”

            No one would ever call Mountain Snow and Mistletoe contrived, and the musicians involved are too good and too real to pass it all off as a mere comfort factor. “The music basically remains the same. The stories basically remain the same,” says Shaw. “The only thing that isn’t the same is the stuff that goes on in between. To a great degree for a lot of people I think that’s why they come is because they don’t know what screwy thing Brian and Kevin are gonna do next. They don’t know what off-the-wall comments are gonna come out of my mouth and John’s and Bridget’s, or what disasters may ensue. It’s a live performance and this, that and the other thing. You can’t do anything wrong at this show.”

  • What: Mountain Snow & Mistletoe
  • When: Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.
  • Where: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall
  • Tickets: $20, 518-273-0038, www.troymusichall.org
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