Author: Bartlett, Regina

HARMONY ROAD… Gifts and Christmas in the Trenches

Could this be the last CBA Welcome column I write? Is the Mayan prophesy true? Is today the last day on Earth? Peace on Earth Good Will to All!

Just like a term paper needing to be written, I had procrastinated, and it was time for my CBA Welcome Column to be written. So with Bobby Osborne and The Rocky Top X-Press playing on my cd player and Jesse McReynolds cued next, I am happy to tell you all that Harmony Road has been full of great music and friends lately. I sent this in last Thursday night and found out that I was a week early rather than a day late!

Tonight I'm going to Morgan Hill to jam at the Grange Hall with the Morgan Hillbillies. This group of friends causes me to drive over Hecker Pass - just to pick some Bluegrass Music. Lots of FUN. Larry, Tim, Ron Rose, Melissa and Dwayne Campbell have done a great job of keeping this jam happening for a few years now. A tip of the hat to you all. Let's pick!

The Brookdale/Boulder Creek Old Time Bluegrass Festival was so much FUN. Don’t miss The Gloria Darlings. These two gals can pick and sing the finest harmony I have heard in a long time. The String Slingers, Hello Trouble, The Stoney Mountain Ramblers, BanjerDan, Rainey Escobar and Prairie Flower and Cactus Bob all gave wonderful performances and sang and played incredible music. I am so proud to call these musicians my friends. Eric Burman said that the next festival "Ano Nuevo Bluegrass & Ol'Timey Festival will be March 8th & 9th, at The Costanoa Resort off of Highway One. For more information check out thewebsite:

I played Christmas carols with Meghan and Curtis Leslie at their new home that is just 5 freeway exits away from my home! What a gift that is! My favorite Bluegrass Pickers now live nearby. Mr. & Mrs. Bluegrass are pretty amazing people too. Congratulations on the new house and musical projects. I heard that Hello Trouble is playing in Bakersfield too.

Sometimes I need to clone myself in order to go to all the musical events and celebrations that I've been invited too:
The Santa Cruz Guitar Company’s Christmas Party;
KPIG Radio’s Humbug Hoedown with Todd Snyder at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz;
And, the Gloria Darlings at the Ugly Mug.

So it’s Christmas time with friends and family, lights and magic,
Christmas parties, ugly sweater parties, white elephant presents, Christmas Carols, cookies, Decorating the tree, and lights on the house. It makes me think of my Mom & Dad. I sure do miss them. This is the first Christmas without my Mom.

Mom loved Christmas and I remember Mom taking me to Midnight Mass in Martins Ferry, Ohio. I heard a soloist sing “O Holy Night” and I knew then and there that I wanted to be a singer. And after all these years, I realized what a gift I was given - the gift of music.

I always sang in choirs in church and in school. My family could not afford music lessons. There were six kids in my family. My Mom and Dad were like movie stars to me. They were so good looking and smart and hard working. They provided for my brothers and sisters and me as best they could. All year long they would hide presents in the attic and on Christmas Eve while we were at Mass, Dad and Santa would get everything downstairs and around the tree. We always came home from the cold Winter night into a warm home full of Christmas lights, presents around the tree and music on the stereo. Dad knew Dean Martin as a teenager and was partial to him and Bing Crosby. Mom had to have Johnny Cash, Elvis or Homer & Jethro. Bikes, Trains, Barbi dolls, Easy Bake Ovens, Slot Car Racers, clothes, candy and lots of love and music filled our home, and Mom's good cooking. Gifts...

For my 16th birthday I was given a Sears Silvertone guitar. There were no automatic tuners back then - just a tuning fork and a pitch pipe. I listened to a record on how to tune over and over and then took my guitar to a friend to help me tune it - many times too. I taught myself how to play 3 chords and sure didn’t get very far playing guitar. I complained about sore fingers and I sure didn’t play like the Kids on Bluegrass do now! Gifts...

It was many years later at the age of 25 that I learned to play guitar when I attended a night class at Long Beach City College. Thanks to Paul Wehmeyer I did learn to play guitar. Gifts…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all. May you have blessings of peace and joy and hope and love. May you have instruments that stay in tune, strings that don't break and amazing lyrical memories and pro$perity in our time on Earth. Gifts...

It's Faith and Love that see us thru the hard times ... gifts of the Spirit.
Christmas and music are so connected for me. I always sing and play music in Church for Christmas. It's my gift to give back to my creator. I think about Steve Martin's song, "Atheists Don't Have No Songs"!!! Recently, after singing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", I was corrected by a politically correct musician who told me that she is an atheist. I almost said, "Oh, I'm so sorry ... to hear that!" I didn't but sure want to. It seems that the singing of some Christmas carols has been sort of restricted now and it made me think of this song:

Christmas in the Trenches
by John McCutcheon

My name is Francis Tolliver, I come from Liverpool.
Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school.
To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany to here
I fought for King and country I love dear.
'Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung,
The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung
Our families back in England were toasting us that day
Their brave and glorious lads so far away.

I was lying with my messmate on the cold and rocky ground
When across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound
Says I, "Now listen up, me boys!" each soldier strained to hear
As one young German voice sang out so clear.
"He's singing bloody well, you know!" my partner says to me
Soon, one by one, each German voice joined in harmony
The cannons rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more
As Christmas brought us respite from the war
As soon as they were finished and a reverent pause was spent
"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" struck up some lads from Kent
The next they sang was "Stille Nacht." "Tis 'Silent Night'," says I
And in two tongues one song filled up that sky
"There's someone coming toward us!" the front line sentry cried
All sights were fixed on one long figure trudging from their side
His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shown on that plain so bright
As he, bravely, strode unarmed into the night
Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man's Land
With neither gun nor bayonet we met there hand to hand
We shared some secret brandy and we wished each other well
And in a flare-lit soccer game we gave 'em hell
We traded chocolates, cigarettes, and photographs from home
These sons and fathers far away from families of their own
Young Sanders played his squeezebox and they had a violin
This curious and unlikely band of men

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more
With sad farewells we each prepared to settle back to war
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wonderous night
"Whose family have I fixed within my sights?"
'Twas Christmas in the trenches where the frost, so bitter hung
The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung
For the walls they'd kept between us to exact the work of war
Had been crumbled and were gone forevermore

My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell
Each Christmas come since World War I, I've learned its lessons well
That the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame
And on each end of the rifle we're the same

So until next year, 2013, I’ll see you out there on Harmony Road,
perhaps we’ll pick some Bluegrass at the Great 48 in Bakersfield.
Posted:  12/21/2012

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