Words and Music: McCutcheon in Town Friday
John McCutcheon, songwriter, folksinger, storyteller, and children's author, is coming to The Country Bookshop on Friday, Nov. 17, at 4 p.m. to present his new book with CD, "Christmas in the Trenches," and sing a few songs as well.
McCutcheon will perform that night at 7 p.m. at R.E. Lee Auditorium at Pinecrest High School for the benefit of the Pinecrest High School Choral Dept. and the Arts Council of Moore County. Tickets for that event are $15 per person and can be purchased from any Pinecrest choral student, at the Arts Council offices in the Campbell House in Southern Pines, and at the door before the concert.
"We knew Mr. McCutcheon is a great supporter of independent bookshops," says Bobbie Bicket, owner of The Country Bookshop. "When two of our staff met him at the Southern Independent Booksellers Association meeting this fall, they asked him if he would visit our shop. We were so pleased when he accepted. We hope all our friends will join us to begin the holiday season with John."
The five-time Grammy-nominee wrote the song "Christmas in the Trenches" in 1984. "For years I've hoped to have the song released as a children's picture book," said McCutcheon. "Converting a song into a picture book was a challenging and illuminating task."
After a "rigorous prose re-write of the story," Henri Sorensen, an "amazing Danish painter," illustrated it.
"Christmas in the Trenches" is the first in a series of books based on McCutcheon's songs being published by Peachtree Publishing in Atlanta, Ga.
"Buoyed by its success, Peachtree has talked to me about some follow-up projects," says McCutcheon. "Among those are 'Calling All The Children Home,' 'Streets of Sarajevo,' the story I've told for years about Paul Robeson at the Sydney Opera House, and even one of the new McCutcheon/Woody Guthrie collaborations from the new album, 'Old Cap Moore.'
"My first foray into children's picture books, 'Happy Adoption Day!' has been a resounding success: still in print for nearly 10 years now. What's most exciting about these new books is that they are all based on songs that are not, per se, children's songs.
"To be able to introduce the ideas contained in songs like 'Christmas in the Trenches' or 'Streets of Sarajevo' in vivid ways to children at a very early age, especially in a medium that tends to involve children and adults doing something together (reading!), is something I've hoped to do for years."
"Christmas in the Trenches" tells the true story about the brief, unofficial cessation of hostilities that occurred between German and British troops stationed on the Western Front during the first Christmas of World War I in 1914.
The truce began on Christmas Eve when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium, for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, then continued the celebration by singing carols, including "Stille Nacht" ("Silent Night"). British troops responded by singing English carols. Greetings were shouted, gifts were exchanged across No Man's Land, recently fallen soldiers were brought back behind their lines by burial parties, and soccer matches between the opposing forces were played. In some areas the truce lasted through Christmas night. In other areas it continued until New Year's Day.
The truce occurred in spite of opposition at higher levels of the military. Earlier in the autumn a call by Pope Benedict XV for an official truce between the warring governments had been ignored. British commanders vowed that no such truce would be allowed again.
In all of the following years of the war, artillery bombardments were ordered on Christmas Eve to ensure that there were no further lulls in the combat. Troops were also rotated through various sectors of the front to prevent them from becoming overly familiar with the enemy.
As one of the featured authors at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., this year, McCutcheon will perform on the National Mall, as well as being "feted with breakfast at the White House."
"I can't think of a better time to present the President with a copy of this particular book," he says.
McCutcheon, who is known for both his social activism and lifelong love of books, may also perform "Closing The Bookstore Down" on Friday, a song that was inspired by the closing of a locally owned bookstore in Charlottesville, Va., where he now lives.
"With small businesses being forced to close every day by competition from large chain stores," he says, "this song has become one of the most requested at my performances. People who come to see me value the small stores and real music."
To reserve an autographed copy of "Christmas in the Trenches," or for information, call The Country Bookshop at 910-692-3211.
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