It has been seven years since singer/songwriter Allan Rankin, storyteller Alan Buchanan and musicians Brad Fremlin and Perry Williams last presented A Hedgerow Christmas.
But to the delight of those who enjoy a great trip down a snow-covered, horse-tracked memory lane at this time of the year, the show has returned this Christmas season in the most perfect of locations, within the rustic heritage charm of Beaconsfield’s Carriage House in Charlottetown.
Wisely in keeping with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, the show follows along a similar thread of its original incarnation while weaving in new tales and music to once again “reconnect with our past through story and song,” as Buchanan said in his introduction.
It was certainly a pleasure to be present for this season’s inaugural showing of A Hedgerow Christmas, this past Sunday at 2:30 p.m. And, despite occasional comments from those in the group about it being a “working out the kinks” performance — as they got their feet wet with it again after seven years — I found it to be, on the other hand, quite a smoothly-presented delight of Island Christmas folklore.
Indeed, it was not only a trip down memory lane, but a sweet, sauntering, twisty-turny stroll with plenty of laughs and historically-educating tidbits of P.E.I. history, intertwined with both classic and original music, all exploring the beauty of this most captivating season.
For instance, some Buchanan story highlights included his tales of the firewood-centric autumns and winters of days gone by (which hit home with me, in a way, as I know I’m not alone in the ongoing wood stacking/splitting chores of this time of year), his engaging readings of Alistair MacLeod’s To Everything There is a Season and the remarkable story of human connection, Christmas in the Trenches, and his stories of the school Christmas concerts of his childhood at the North Pinette one-room schoolhouse (which also hit home with me, in a different way, as it was a treat to hear about how things once were in our little corner of the Island, as my wife and I now call Pinette home).
Musical highlights were many as well, including Rankin’s original songs such as Tilley’s Walk, Raise the Dead of Wintertime The Blanket and The Gift. There were also toe-tapping tunes like Let it Snow (which featured the tasteful piano and guitar work by Fremlin on grand piano and Williams on his sweet cherry-red electric Gretsch). And there was the sense of evocative peace that encased the room as Fremlin played a spine-chilling solo of Silent Night on the singing saw (to follow Christmas in the Trenches) — truly something exceptional.
With a sing-along finale of carols like O Come All Ye Faithful, We Three Kings, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas, we were sent on our way back home with a musical spring in our step and the tales of yesteryear’s Christmas echoing in our hearts.
A Hedgerow Christmas plays at The Beaconsfield Carriage House today and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., and then Sunday at 2:30 p.m. for its final performance of the season.
You can take the show home with you, too, as A Hedgerow Christmas on CD is for sale at each performance. It could make for a lovely gift for that classic heritage Christmas lover on your list.
Next week: Mavor Moore’s A Christmas Carol at Confederation Centre of the Arts.
Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.
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