For Christmas week I have an old carol with social commentary that fits our modern world. Come in to my kitchen. I’ll sing it for you.
This is the 4th year that I will spend New Year’s Eve on stage with good friends at The Homegrown Coffeehouse in Needham. Our show runs from 10:00 pm until midnight, however Needham Arts has a full program throughout the day, including folkie friends Beth DeSombre, Kirsten and Dave, Dan and Faith Senie, Carolyn Waters Band, and the Jerry Wasserman Band. Lots of family events too. Check out the details at New Year’s Needham.
This Month’s Music
“Carol of the Beasts”
Traditional. New verse © 2012 Tom Smith
Lyrics shown in the comments section at the end of this page.
Sometimes I get discouraged when I listen to the news on the radio or watch it on television. Perhaps it is the time of year that adds to my feelings that the world is particularly unbalanced right now. At times like this I often turn to music to steady my step. This month I share a wonderful old 17th century French carol that was translated by Oscar Brand. I thought I learned it from Michael Cooney, but Michael tells me that he never sang this song. So I think I must have first heard it sung by Pete Seeger on his 1967 album Traditional Christmas Carols, on Folkways records. I have always thought this carol was too short, so earlier this week I added a third verse. It seems a little presumptuous, but hopefully folk purists will forgive me.
This carol is not sung very often. It is a pity – such a wonderful melody and sentiment. I am particularly drawn to it this year because it speaks to my observation that some of the people who have so much wealth can only look for ways to get more. As our president and congress struggle to compromise on policy to avoid the January 1 Fiscal Cliff, many stubbornly hold to the notion that transferring wealth from those who need it most to those who have the most will somehow encourage them to put their wealth to work for the common good. In addition, the recent horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut have highlighted that many see the control of assault weapons as limits to personal freedom. It is self over community.
It seems strangely comforting to know that the theme expressed in this old French carol applies today. Perhaps it is because there is comfort in knowing that my feelings are not limited to this time and place. I am not alone in my hopes that we are better than that – that there are models of compassion and generosity in this world – like the oxen and donkeys in this song.
(If so inclined, I invite you to leave a comment by scrolling to the end of this page.)
Dec 31, Monday, 10:00 pm, Needham, MA. New Years’ Eve! I return to the Homegrown Coffeehouse to join “The Rounders”, including Chris Pahud, Cheryl Perreault, John Gotthardt, Deborah and Giovani Rocha. We will be performing in-the-round until Auld Lang Syne time!
Jan 22, Tuesday, 8:00 pm, Natick, MA. I will feature at The Center for the Arts in Natick (TCAN) open mike, hosted by Mark Steppakoff.
Click to view details for all upcoming shows.
Featured Non-Profit: Tunefoolery
“Tunefoolery Concert Ensembles from Boston, Massachusetts is a unique and courageous group of over 50 musicians with psychiatric disabilities who play and perform music as a way towards healing and recovery.” – Tunefoolery.org
Three years ago I released my ‘family friendly’ CD Peace on Peabody Hill to benefit Tunefoolery. Sales exceeded $1200, which was sufficient to send several Tunefoolery musicians to summer music week in Western Massachusetts. This is a photo from that summer. For some, it was the highlight of their entire year. Thank you to those who purchased this CD and supported this wonderful group.
Since then Tunefoolery has found a new space in the South End of Boston, and they are working hard to overcome serious funding cuts from a cash-strapped state government. Please join me in supporting Tunefoolery. Consider a tax deductible contribution.