Looking back at Mountain Snow & Mistletoe, 12/09/2010

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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!!!

A Local Holiday Tradition Rings True

Chris Shaw is 40 years into a career – 30 years professionally – as an Adirondack singer. One of his albums about the Adirondacks is in the Smithsonian. He pretty much is the poster boy for the renowned high peaks to our north on PBS. He’s toured the world singing his original songs about the unspoiled wilderness, but ever since he married Bridget Ball in 1984, the couple has lived right here in Averill Park.

This Saturday night and Sunday afternoon they perform at The Egg at what has become a much anticipated regional holiday tradition, their annual Mountain Snow and Mistletoe show with guests Brian Mellick on percussion, guitarist and vocalist Kevin McKrell, multi-instrumentalist John Kirk and Tony Markellis on bass.

The CD that was the genesis for the program was recorded more than two decades ago at their home on Burden Lake…….in July. “I’m sure the neighbors thought it was strange to have folksingers as neighbors in the first place,” recalls Shaw, “but believe me when we covered the windows with blankets, and when they heard Christmas music coming out of that house in July, I’m sure they were convinced we were nuts.”

The album, also called Mountain Snow and Misteltoe, is dedicated to Jesus, the Averill Park Schools “for lending us sleigh bells,” and to their neighbor Jim. “Because of his good nature and year round Christmas spirit,” reads the dedication, “Jim’s lawn mower is not part of this album.” Chris says he and Bridget did give Jim a first pressing of the CD for agreeing to stop mowing while they recorded.

With two sons and a growing inventory of CDs for sale, Chris and Bridget eventually moved to a larger home at the end of a cull de sac still in Averill Park. Bridget now works full time as a financial advisor. The two Mountain Snow and Mistletoe shows are the only performing she does now. This year she began teaching personal finance at Empire State College and a course she calls “Women and Wealth” at Russell Sage. Chris, when he’s not on the road, is the stay-at-home parent. He’s been five years on the Averill Park School Board and President for three of them. Three weeks ago, he accepted a position on the board of the Sand Lake Center for The Arts.

“It’s wonderful when you have an opportunity to impact the quality of life in your community,” says Chris. “It makes you feel good.” The world is his audience, but this is his home. “I like the Capital District. It’s nice to live in a part of it that’s still not terribly developed. We’d probably the last corner of the Capital Region that I can think of that isn’t really under the gun for residential development. We live on a little over an acre, only a five-minute walk from the high school. It’s really a kind of Norman Rockwell existence.”

Chris and Bridget’s original reasons for living in our area were that they couldn’t afford lakeside property in the Adirondacks, and the Capital Region was where they performed when they were a regional duo. The new global realities mean that the couple conceivably could live anywhere, and while Chris now has grown into the most prominent international musician to call the Troy area his home since Nick Brignola, he doesn’t look at it that way.

Chris and Bridget have written music that breathes warmth and family values in a way that rings true without ever being cloying or cliché-ed.

“Honestly, I spend little if any time thinking about that,” he says. My grandfather was the editor of the Saratogian years and years ago, Jess Kavanauh, and a long time ago, I heard him say, ‘If you believe the good press, Chris, you gotta believe the bad press, too.’ So thank goodness there hasn’t been much bad press, but the spirit of that wasn’t lost on me, and I think that in this business it’s great what you’ve done, but it’s more important what you’re doing, and its going to be more important what you do in the future.

“So I think, yeah, I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve had a chance to tour all over the world. I’ve had great successes with some recordings. I’ve been able to be on TV. I’ve written for TV and been the subject of TV shows. And that’s great, but you’re only as good as your last show.”

Mountain Snow and Mistletoe is always a great show. The music defined Americana before the term existed, and Chris and Bridget have written music that’s breathes warmth and family values in a way that rings true without ever being cloying or cliché-ed.

  • What: Mountain Snow and Mistletoe
  • When: Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.
  • Where: The Egg, Empire State PLaza
  • Tickets: Theeegg.org
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