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Time and again I've referred to the Christmas Season as “the traditional time for telling ghostly tales.” I've said it so often that my human companions can repeat it in their sleep, let alone sing it in harmony with me. And each time I say it several of them stare in bemused contemplation; I can almost hear the wheels turning as they wonder whether to back away slowly or call for the gentlemen with the butterfly nets…

Well, I won't offer justification for it. You can take my word on it, or do some research of your own; the Internet will be wonderfully helpful. However, I offer this introduction to explain that I am always looking for an opportunity to do a holiday performance of Christmas-themed tales.

This season, on December 20th , I arranged a show for the Winter Season at Old Town Coffee & Chocolates in Eureka , CA, with my storytelling and musical companions Seabury Gould and Paul Woodland. (You'll remember they've shared the stage with me many times in the past, including a recent show this past Halloween at the same venue.) Adding to our company was a lovely young Celtic harpist named Maya Kaup, whose charm and talents greatly added to the evening's festivities.

 

My human companion Bob, who arranges all my performances, sent press releases to the local newspapers touting the show, and distributed flyers throughout Eureka, Arcata and the surrounding area. I thought he'd done a fine job in getting the word out, and expected a fairly comfortable turnout.

I never would have imagined the response we'd get. The place was packed to the walls! There was standing room only; some patrons were standing and listening in the adjoining serving room waiting for seats, while others simply listened from outside on the sidewalks through the windows. It was a glorious crowd! (Apparently, all these years of declaiming Christmas as a time for eerie tales had finally paid off!)

Needless to say, the evening was a smashing success, and the crowd seemed to have a wonderful time. Ms. Maya, entertained between tellers with some Christmas favorites such as Santa Claus Is Coming To Town and Deck The Halls , as well as accompanying me on my final tale; Seabury encouraged the crowd to sing along on some alternate Christmas carols such as Santa Mambo (which is an image I'll remember for a long time…) and Pauncho Claus ( “On Pedro, On Sancho…!” ), and regaled us all with a beautiful story of a boy who went to Bethlehem at the bequest of the Faeries to determine their fates in the new world; Paul delved into the history behind some of the holiday classics (like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer) and the creation of the first Christmas tree, read a Christmas letter from J. R. R. Tolkein (collected in a delightful book of letters he wrote to his children in the persona of Santa) and intoned the famous “Yes Virginia, There IS A Santa Claus” editorial from the Baltimore Sun (“If you see it in the Sun, it's so…”)

 

 
 
The lovely Ms. Maya and Seabury join in a seasonal duet. (No, I am NOT falling asleep; I am enjoying the lovely music...wiseacre...)

 

As for myself? I shared my tale of the ghostly carolers, warned the audience of the dark angel of Christmas named Nackles (from a story by Donald Westlake, with additional material from Harlan Ellison) ,shared a Hanukkah story of a man outwitting a series of Goblins determined to stop the Festival of Lights from taking place, explored what happens after the holiday has passed between the two sweethearts with the song The Twelve Days AFTER Christmas , and finished with a favorite of the novice monk who offers a gift of dance to the statue of the Blessed Mother, with magical results. Almost all of my tales were accompanied by the virtuoso playing of Mr. Gould, and I enjoyed every moment. I also told one of my favorite ghostly Winter Tales of The Vampire In The Snow , which two of my young friends told me afterwards was their favorite!

It was a splendid night, and a fitting way to lift our holiday spirits five days before the wondrous day itself, and we went out into a chill, misty Lost Coast night warmed from the joy and enthusiasm that had surrounded us. And as a perfect nightcap, Paul reported the final words of a couple exiting the establishment, who were obviously new to my style of performing. As they made their way up the street to their vehicle, the husband turned to the wife and said, “That was a great show…but what did the Grim reaper have to do with it?”

Ah well…in the end nothing is perfect, I suppose…


Thank you to Carol Kaup for her photos!

The Grand Finale: Seabury, Paul, Maya, Yours Truly and an enthusiastic bystander lead ther audience in John Lennon's
"Happy Xmas (War Is Over)".

 




The photo below was used to advertise the event. I suppose you can now refer to me as Your Christmas Spirit!

 
 
 
 

To learn more about Christmas being the traditional time for ghostly tales, you can click HERE to read the article published in the ARCATA EYE newspaper.

 

 

Baba Jamal Koram is The Story Man. He represents the best in storytelling innovation, creativity and folkloric culture. He is distinguished in upholding storytelling traditions across a broad spectrum of cultures. He is a consultant, counselor, educator and friend for countless youth and for many schools, youth programs which have included Boys and Girls Clubs, TRIO Programs, and the African Heritage Education/Sankofa Drumming Camps for Boys. 

He has received the B.A., M.S., and Ed.S. degrees and in addition to storytelling performances for youth and adults, conducts Residency programs and Workshops for Community Organizations, School Districts, Museums, Library Systems, Colleges and Special Programs. He is a cultural arts specialist, and is a member of organizations such as the National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc., Alexandria Society for the Preservation of Black Heritage, Fauquier County Historical Society, Inc. Keepers of the Culture, Inc., The Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County, and National Storytelling Network.

He is, quite simply, a master, and if you do not know him or have never heard of him, you are poorer for the lack of experience.

 

 
 

I am not modest enough to deny that I am a fine storyteller and know my way around most audiences well. But just as Mr. Spielberg, Boorman and Coppola offer their respect to the late Stanley Kubrick; just as Mr. King and Matheson and Ellison raise their glass to Edgar Allen Poe; just as Mr. Springsteen and Crenshaw and Joel and countless others acknowledge their debt to John Lennon (who himself would pass the torch to Chuck Berry), I take a backseat to the wonder and magic of Mr. Koram. I have had the honor to share the stage with him twice now; once a few years back with the North Coast Storytellers at Humboldt State University , and this past Saturday, January 17 at the Arcata Presbyterian Church.

The North Coast Storytellers once again hosted the event and shared the stage for the first half of the evening, and then Mr. Koram took the stage for the remainder of the night. Everyone was true to form, and told some marvelous tales, including my companions Ross, Charlene, Seabury, Ali, and Carol. I told my Winter tale of the monk who offers a special gift to the statue of the Blessed Mother, and Seabury accompanied me beautiful, as always.

But the night belonged most properly to Mr. Koram, and rightly so. With a call of “Aago!”, and an echo from the audience of “Aamaay!” (Mr. Koram's way of saying, “I'm ready to begin; are you listening?” and our response indicating “Yes!”) Mr. Koram held the night with cheerful authority and gracious good humor and delight. I could try and describe the tales he told; I could recite them word for word and relate the audience's reactions. It would be a moot point. My efforts would not do it justice; truly you had to be there. The man must be experienced personally.

I had a marvelous time meeting and greeting my friends during the intermission, and want to share a special thank you to my young friend Fiona, who wanted to simply spend some time with me and say hello. It was a pleasure, my Sweet, and I hope I'll see you again soon!

To learn more about this amazing gentleman, or to see where he will be performing next. You can log onto his website at www.babajamalkoram.com. You could also do far worse than to order one of his storytelling CDs from the site; it's not quite the same as seeing him live, but is the next best thing. If you do, tell him his friend Carpathian sent you. He'll deeply appreciate it.

 

 


© 2008 Patient Creatures Ltd.