Midwinter in the City

December 25, 2005 | 4 comments
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I’ve never spent Christmas in New York, but Garrison Keillor has. Of course, he’s by no means everyone’s ideal guide to the Christmas spirit…but I think he’s on to something nonetheless.

This is from his Christmas program a few years back. He wrote the words, Musica Sacra performed the piece. Between their powerfully spiritual, ethereal sound, and his homely, deceptively simplistic lyrics, something deeply truthful emerged, something that perhaps only a pious liberal in a busy commercial city could have caught just so:

In the bleak midwinter / all around the park
Tall apartment buildings / blazing in the dark
Standing here on Broadway / and West 64th
Watching for a taxi: / who is heading north?

In the café window / little candles glow
Where we met for dinner / long, long ago
In the bleak midwinter / happy times recall
Loved ones smiling, laughing / blessed memories all

Over by the church door / twenty feet away
A figure wrapped in blankets / lying in the hay
Who is this stranger / sleeping in cardboard?
So says the gospel / it is Christ the Lord

Where can we find it / Christmas love and cheer?
Where are the shepherds / standing, waiting near?
Who is the choir? / Shall we sing our part?
Hear the Christmas music / in you heart.

More thoughts here, if you care for them. And meanwhile…Merry Christmas, everyone.

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4 Responses to Midwinter in the City

  1. Seth Rogers on December 25, 2005 at 11:54 am

    Garrison Keillor is amazing. I’ve never heard anyone who could evoke so many different feelings at the same time through his voice.

    Merry Christmas by the way.

  2. Keith on December 25, 2005 at 12:31 pm

    I heard this performed on the show just a few weeks ago–sung by Dawn Upshaw. When Keillor has classical singers on the show, he will almost always have them sing a well known piece to different, funny lyrics. This seemed like one of those (the audience was chuckling and all), until it turned and pierced the heart on verse three.

    Merry Christmas.

  3. dennis read on December 26, 2005 at 9:05 am

    Loved the piece, but I don’t know why you had to introduce it with a backhanded slap at Mr. Keillor. Who in your view would be the ideal guide?

  4. Russell Arben Fox on December 27, 2005 at 12:14 pm

    Seth, Keith, Dennis: glad you liked the piece. Dennis, I didn’t mean my opening comment to come across as a snark–on the contrary, I was hoping to pre-empt snarks by assuring whatever Keillor-bashers there may be out there that I don’t mean to set him up as an infallible guide to the true meaning of the holiday. I guess, on Christmas Day, I needn’t have been so suspicious.

    I’m a huge Keillor fan, for what it’s worth. One of my dreams is to make it out to one of his live shows. I hope he keeps them up until I have the chance.