I usually land  a gig at this large Bethlehem Christmas fair every year. It’s a tented holiday Arts Quest (read: corporate) event and I get to play my holiday music in front of folks eating and hanging out, or, in some cases, coming out to see me.

I was signed up for two afternoon sets on the last day of the event; the Saturday before Christmas.  Even the sound man was counting down the hours and I was glad I could help him out. We set up and did our sound check thing and off we went.

There were fewer kids than usual and a sparse crowd, so I got to exercise my favorite Christmas songs, the ones I’ve worked on and have grown to love. I only get a chance to play them during this season and they all have deep resonance with my own personal holiday connections. This canon of music is very deeply familial and genetic. So it is with music that we all have sung together for  years and years. This is essential folk music. It seems I have a Christmas album in me, too.

It seems that other performing groups at this venue don’t always pursue the holiday “purity” that I expect, and some don’t necessarily play seasonal songs. I’ve always added mandolin tunes and some Celtic songs to help me fatten out my meager Xmas set list. And I’m also fine with doing kids and family songs in order to seek out and connect with folks who are up front, listening and engaged. And when I even play to a relatively sparse crowd, I am surprised that folks clap and respond to the songs I play. Always surprised. I tell them to calm down.

I enjoy these gigs, as strange as they are. I get to sing special songs that I want to, crank up my guitar with a real PA, work on a public audience, get in touch with my creative self and deposit a check the next day.  That’s a good arrangement.

There was a special moment at the end. A young kid and his slighly older brother were left up front as their mom and dad headed off to do some shopping. I connected with “Nate” and he was working on his tambourine licks with his brother. I asked him to come up to do Rudolph with me. We worked on the hand motions (antlers and noses) and proceeded to do the song. There were only a few folks in the house at this point in the afternoon, but his brother sitting up front was in tears. This made my day.

I picked up my paycheck, packed up my gear, thanked the sound guy for his friendship, and headed off to Atlantic City to celebrate my son Jaimie’s business promotion.