Looking back at Mountain Snow & Mistletoe, 12/20/2012

Editor’s Note: Mountain Snow and Mistletoe was a yearly concert that Chris Shaw and Bridget Ball did to celebrate the holidays here in the Capital Region. Nearly every year Don Wilcock would interview his friend Chris about the upcoming show and some sweet moments were captured in print. Nippertown is proud to share six of these over the few days before Christmas and post a new interview between Don and Chris on Christmas Day… Merry Christmas!!!

The Christmas Show That Time Forgets

It’s happened more than once. Adirondack singer/songwriter Chris Shaw gets so caught up in listening to his wife and singer Bridget Ball or percussionist Brian Melick or guitarist Kevin McKrell of fiddler John Kirk during the annual Mountain Snow and Mistletoe show that he forgets to play along. He thinks to himself, “Damn, that’s really cool, you know?”

“Chris, you’re not playing!”

And he snaps back to reality. But it’s his seasonal reality. Another universe. A place where the comfort of a Christmas constant takes him out of the blur that is his life. Mountain Snow and Mistletoe with its acoustic picking, harmony singing and stories quilted in warmth and familial love is a time machine back to early family memories.

Chris Shaw
Chris Shaw

“For that period of time you have to give yourself permission to just go to that universe.  You can’t stay there. It’d be nice if you could, but you can’t,” Chris explains. “So you go there. You do that. You do what it is that must get done. And then, and only then, do you come back to the real world.”

One cornerstone of the show is Chris’s “Uncle Walt’s hunting trip” story so firmly lodged in his memory of childhood that he never rehearses it. “I just press start.” He left it out one year, and the public reaction was much like the scene in Frankenstein where the villagers light torches and corner the monster in the burning windmill. The other cornerstone is Bridget’s “Light A Light” song that has everyone in the audience participating. Chris calls it the Christmas equivalent to midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show where there’s more going on in the seats than on the screen.

For 24 years Chris and Bridget have opened their hearts and shared their Christmas card with the same balsam boughs. The ornaments may change. They have two sons, one ready for college, the other in high school. Chris has had several day jobs ranging from the Adirondack Museum to the Historical Society. He’s most proud of helping Bridget set up her financial advisory business, but he always comes back to performing.

Bridget Ball
Bridget Ball

He has an album in the Smithsonian as a representation of his original Adirondack music, and a few years ago he played to 15,000 people at the iconic Philadelphia Folk Festival with six cameras focused on him, one of them up his prodigious nose. He jokes that even the huge screen on stage wasn’t large enough to capture the majesty of that proboscis.

Mountain Snow is the antithesis of the Philadelphia Folk Festival. It brings family and his other love, music, together. Once a performing duo, he and Bridget now kiss each other goodbye every day and go off in different worlds. This show brings them back into the circle that originally nurtured their love for one another.

Chris understands that doing one show a year of this magnitude for his spouse creates great pressure. “No, it’s not that she doesn’t play during the year, she does. She’s a big part of the music ministry at our church. She appears at the 4 o’clock mass at St. Henry’s every week, but the other challenge of this show even after all these years is this is material you play for two shows. You’re not playing this in July.”

Chris points to his guitar on the couch. “We don’t have the same exact show every year, and they’re just not songs that we play at any other time. So there’s a learning curve. I was trying to remember “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful” as a finger picking tune. Like I think about that on the 4th of July?”

Chris and Bridget as personal friends have been the wind beneath my wings for nearly a quarter century as they have for a legion of fans who disappear from their everyday struggles once a year and enter the time machine with them and return to a comforting constant.

  • What: Mountain Snow and Mistletoe
  • When: Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 2
  • Where: The Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany
  • Tickets: $24, 518-473-1845, www.theegg.org

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