"NORTH COUNTRY CHRISTMAS"
"NORTH COUNTRY CHRISTMAS." Stan Ransom and Marne O'Shae. Cassette and CD. 63 minutes. Copyright 1994 by Stan Ransom (BMI). Recorded and mixed by Charles Eller in 1994 at Charles Eller Studios, in Charlotte, VT. Art direction by HUGE Design, Shelburne, VT.
Many of the pieces have ties to the North Country of New York State or Vermont and are so noted.
Instruments used are a 12 string Alvarez guitar (1984 Yairi model), a 1926 Gibson Model A mandolin, an Oscar Schmidt 21 bar autoharp, and a curly maple hammered dulcimer designed and constructed by the late Kenneth H. Butler, of West Hartland, Connecticut, in 1988. Marne plays a Martin D18 1968 6 string guitar.
Marne (Marnie) O'Shae was born in Salamanca, NY, and has toured as a folk singer from France to the Far West. She is studying to become a family doctor.
Cover photo: S. Ransom, from "Winter Long Ago," folk painting by Emmett Pine, Keeseville, NY. From the collection of S. Ransom.
1. Mary's Song. From Luke 1:46-55. The Magnificat rendered into verse by Stan Ransom in 1988 at the suggestion of Dr. Earl Johnson, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Plattsburgh. The tune is "Planxty Irwin," composed by Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738). Hammered dulcimer. Vocal and guitar by Marne.
2. Here We Come A-Wassailing/Deck the Halls. Instrumental. A 17th century English carol. "Waes-hael" was the Anglo-Saxon greeting for "Be in health." "Deck the Halls" is the Welsh New Year's carol "Nos Galen." Guitar, hammered dulcimer and mandolin.
3. Il Est Ne (He Is Born). 18th Century French carol, sung in three languages, Mohawk, French and English. The Mohawk version, "Rotonni Niio Roienha," is thanks to Harriet LaFrance and Carol LaFrance Ross of the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation at Hogansburg, NY. Guitar, mandolin and vocals.
4. Skating at Reber. From a poem by Mary H. Spear, January, 1896, celebrating this sport in the hamlet of Reber, Essex County, NY. Tune by Stan Ransom. Guitar and vocal.
5. John Norton's Christmas. Verses composed by Stan Ransom from the final paragraph of "Holiday Tales. Christmas in the Adirondacks," by W.H.H. Murray, published in 1897. Tune by Stan Ransom. Guitar and mandolin. Vocals by Stan and Marne.
6. Huron Indian Carol ('Twas in the Moon of Wintertime). T he Huron Christians made Jesus the son of Gitchimanitou. 18th century carol. Autoharp, mandolin; vocal and guitar by Marne.
7. Coventry Carol/O Come, O Come, Emanuel. Instrumental. The "Coventry Carol" was sung as part of the Coventry Pageant of Shearmen and Tailors, dramatizing an event from the Bible, in which women lament the slaying of their first-born by Herod. The tune first appeared in 1591. The second is an example of 13th century plain song. Guitar, mandolin.
8. Jolly Old St. Nicholas. Children's Christmas song, attributed to the 20th century Canadian singer Wilf (Montana Slim) Carter. Guitar, mandolin, vocal by Stan.
9. We Three Kings from Orient Are. Composed by the Reverend John Henry Hopkins (1820-91) about 1857, before he was appointed rector of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Plattsburgh in 1872. Guitar, mandolin, vocals by Stan and Marne.
10. Cherry Tree Carol. This Vermont version is from the Helen Hartness Flanders Collection at Vermont's Middlebury College. It was collected by Mrs. Flanders from the singing of Mrs. E.M. Sullivan, of Springfield, VT. Mrs. Flanders notes this carol as "Child Ballad No. 54."Guitar, autoharp, mandolin, vocal by Stan.
11. Christmas on the Sea. The words to this little known song were written by Hezikiah Butterworth, born in 1839, probably for his 1883 "Poems for Christmas, Easter and the New Year." George F. Root (1820-95), most remembered for "Battle Cry of Freedom," and "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp," composed the tune. The song first appeared in 1883. It was President Theodore Roosevelt's favorite Christmas carol, and it is still sung each Christmas at his church, Christ Church, in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Vice-President Roosevelt was climbing Mr. Marcy in Essex County, NY, on September 14, 1901, when word came of the assassination of President McKinley. Guitar, autoharp, vocals by Stan and Marne.
12. North Country Christmas. Composed in 1982 by Stan Ransom to celebrate the joys of Christmas in the North Country. Guitar, vocal.
13. What Child is This? Twice mentioned by Shakespeare, the familiar tune "Greensleeves" was first published in 1580. The Christmas carol words were written by William Chatterton Dix (1837-98) in 1865. Guitar, hammered dulcimer, vocal by Marne.
14. Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake. This humorous Irish Christmas song has been popular for a hundred years. Plattsburgh resident John Nolan told Stan Ransom that his grandfather sang this song in Ausable Forks, Essex County, NY, when John was a boy. Guitar, mandolin, vocal by Stan.
15. The Son of God is Born (Wahatonni Raksaa ne Niio Roienha). Sung by Mrs. Harriet LaFrance, of the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, assisted by her daughter, Carol, this unaccompanied Native American carol tells of the birth of Jesus. Field recording, 1988. Used by permission.
16. St. Basil's Hymn/Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. Instrumental. St. Basil lived from 329-379 AD in Greece. The tune dates from the 6th century. The second tune is a traditional Frinch melody. Guitar, hammered dulcimer, autoharp.
17. Jingle Bells. Composed by J.S. Pierpont (1822-93) in 1857, this seasonal tune was originally called, "The One Horse Open Sleigh." Guitar, hammered dulcimer, antique harness bells, vocals by Stan and Marne.
18. Brightest and Best. This variant of the shape note hymn "Star of the East" first appeared in "Southern Harmony" in 1835. The words were written in 1811 by Bishop Reginald Heber (1783-1826). This carol was learned from the recording of Vermont's Tom Armstrong and his sister, Mrs. Wilson, and was collected by Helen Hartness Flanders. Guitar, autoharp, vocal by Stan.
19. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. Instrumental. 18th century English carol. Guitar, mandolin.
20. I Wonder As I Wander. American folk hymn collected by John Jacob Niles from the singing of a traveling evangelist, Annie Morgan, on July 10, 1933, in Murphy, NC. He paid her 25 cents an hour to sing it until he had memorized it. Autoharp, mandolin, vocal and guitar by Marne.
21. Silent Night. With text by Joseph Mohr (1792-1848) and tune by Franz Gruber (1787-1863) this most revered of Christmas carols was composed on Christmas Eve4 in 1818, with a guitar accompaniment, after the breakdown of the church organ in Oberndorf, Austria. Guitar, autoharp, vocal by Stan, with harmony and descant by Marne.
22. Good King Wenceslas. Instrumental. The Latin carol "Tempus Adest Floridum" (The Flower Carol) first appeared in 1582 in the Swedish book "Piae Cantiones." The Reverend John Mason Neale (1818-66) used this tune to tell the story of the Bohemian King Wenceslas in 1853. Guitar, hammered dulcimer, autoharp and mandolin.
23. We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Traditional English carol. Guitar, vocals by Stan and Marne.