Random Poem: The Journey of the Magi, by T. S. Eliot

This Sunday just passed marked Epiphany in the Christian calendar, the date when we remember the visit paid to Jesus by wise men from the East (the Magi, also known as the Three Kings) as recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 2:1-12). Continue reading “Random Poem: The Journey of the Magi, by T. S. Eliot”

Ballet on the Sofa: The Nutcracker

The_Nutcracker_(1993_film)_poster.jpgWith Christmas fast approaching I decided it was high time I watched the quintessential Christmas ballet: Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker’, which was first performed in St. Petersburg in December 1892.

I elected to watch the 1993 Warner Brothers film version, and I rather suspect that this was a mistake. Continue reading “Ballet on the Sofa: The Nutcracker”

Local Culture: Pantomime at the Rep

pantomime-poster**Please note that all pictures in this post have been ‘borrowed’ from the Wanganui Repertory Theatre Facebook page, with the exception of the final shot which comes from local paper the Midweek**

When I was a child in England a trip to the pantomime was a Christmas tradition. Mum would take us to buy a big bag of pick and mix sweets, and we’d spend two blissful hours lost in the world of a fairy-tale gone slightly nuts, booing the villain and informing the hero/ine that “he’s behiiiiind you!” before all ended happily and we went home, hyped up on drama and sugar in roughly equal proportions.

This year this wonderful Christmas tradition made its way to Whanganui with the local Repertory Theatre’s production of Little Red Riding Hood. Keen to get my Christmas comedy fix I headed along and was not disappointed. Continue reading “Local Culture: Pantomime at the Rep”

Treasure Trove: ‘Christmas Bells’ by Henry Wandsworth Longfellow

I first came across this poem as a Christmas carol adaptation by one of my favourite contemporary Christian bands, Casting Crowns (you can listen to their version here). Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote the original in 1863, in response to the American Civil War (1861-1865). It was an intensely personal poem: Longfellow’s eldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, had joined the War in the Union cause without his father’s blessing, and had later been seriously wounded in Virginia.

Sidney E King, ‘The Capture of Rickett’s Battery’

Although it has subsequently been adapted several times, with the more specific references to the War altered or omitted, the original runs as follows:




Continue reading “Treasure Trove: ‘Christmas Bells’ by Henry Wandsworth Longfellow”

A Special Drop: Ascension Wineries ‘Fortitude’ Tawny Port

A few weeks ago I wrote about a visit I made to Ascension Wine Estate in October with my best friend, and the fun I had tasting some of their wines. There was one in particular that I really loved: their tawny port, ‘Fortitude’. Continue reading “A Special Drop: Ascension Wineries ‘Fortitude’ Tawny Port”

Christmas Classics: Carols

In my student days I spent several Christmases working in retail. Musically, it took me years to recover from spending ten hours a day listening to piped Christmas ‘muzak’, which tends to feature a lot of snow and very little religious sentiment, often while muttering darkly about how I live in a country where Christmas occurs in the middle of summer and ‘if it does f***ing snow I am NOT going to be impressed.’

Christmas carols, however, are another thing altogether for me, and it seems I’m not alone. Even in secularised New Zealand community-organised open-air carol singing events can still draw a crowd. Santa usually puts in an appearance, and there’s an atmosphere of good-natured celebration, if not exactly religious devotion, which is arguably fitting to the singing of carols. Continue reading “Christmas Classics: Carols”

Christmas Classics: The Night Before Christmas

When I was very little, my grandparents sent me a copy of Clement C. Moore’s classic tale, and my mother read it to us every Christmas Eve until I was well into my teens (mothers are like that).

My childhood copy of ‘The Night Before Christmas’, possibly c. 1970.

Continue reading “Christmas Classics: The Night Before Christmas”

Christmas Classics: Handel’s ‘Messiah’

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
(Prologue to Handel’s ‘Messiah’, 1 Timothy 3:16, KJV)

I have heard Handel’s ‘Messiah’ on CD, in part and in full, a number of times, but this year marks the first time I have had the privilege of attending a live performance. I’ll move on to the history of ‘Messiah’ and the details of this particular performance presently, but first…

As someone who is deeply engaged with the religious tradition in which Handel’s masterpiece originates, I cannot overstate how deeply moving, on a spiritual level, I found the performance to be, in a way I simply hadn’t anticipated.

Christ nativity
The Nativity of Christ: the Adoration of the Magi (Orthodox icon).

Continue reading “Christmas Classics: Handel’s ‘Messiah’”

Christmas Classics: Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Marley was dead to begin with
‘Marley was dead, to begin with.’

‘Marley was dead, to begin with.’As opening lines go, this has to be one of my favourites. Last Christmas a thirteen-year-old I work with remarked that she didn’t understand why movie adaptations of ‘A Christmas Carol’ were considered appropriate fare for children, when the story is actually pretty creepy. I told her she was absolutely right: ‘A Christmas Carol’ is not a story for children. Continue reading “Christmas Classics: Dickens’ A Christmas Carol”