Tuesday, December 9, 2008

December Stories and Songs, Part Nine

Today's story is set in Poland: In Clean Hay, by Eric P. Kelly. It's anthologized in The Home Book of Christmas, but is also available (used) in an edition from 1953 illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham. Kelly, who learned to love Poland as a soldier in the aftermath of World War I, won the 1929 Newbery Medal for his book The Trumpeter of Krakow. In Clean Hay was first published in 1940, when Poland was again at war. But there's no war in this story, just a family of children who want to make a little Christmas money with their szopka krakowska, or puppet theater telling the story of the Nativity. These puppet shows are still given today both in Poland and in Polish-American communities.
Above is a photo of a young Polish man holding a szopka; as you can see they are often quite elaborate.

Polish Christmas carols are some of the loveliest and least-known of the songs of Christmas. To go with today's story, I chose a carol which is mentioned in the story, Wsrod Nocnej Ciszy (Amid the Silence -- there should be some diacritical marks in the Polish, but Blogger doesn't let me do them). The tune begins quietly, as the words tell the story of a quiet night on the hillside outside Bethlehem, where angels appear to the shepherds. Then you can hear in the music the excitement of the shepherds as they go to the manger to see the baby Jesus. My recording of this carol is by the Krakowsky Chor Kameralny, and I ordered it all the way from Poland via eBay! However, I found a lovely YouTube video of the carol, which I'll post here for those who can't wait. You can also go here to purchase an MP3, but I don't like any of them as well as the one on YouTube and the choir from Krakow.

1 comment:

Crimson Rambler said...

and thanks be to God for the Petershams -- mainstays of my childhood reading too!