EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Living 'Underneath the Mountain' at Christmas

When Good King Wenceslas looked out and saw the snow with the moon shining bright in about the year 1000, he could have been describing  the weather in any Canadian community on almost any Christmas Eve in our history.

Before I go any further with King Wenceslas though as revealed in the popular carol 'Good King Wenceslas', I have only recently discovered that he was not really a king, but the Duke of Bohemia, and he was looking out on the Feast of St Stephen, the day after Christmas. To me it doesn't really matter as the carol brings back fond memories and delivers a message that applies any time.

Some readers will recall that my mother Muriel E. (Hunt) Morris directed many concerts and musicals during the 32 years that she taught at Chapleau Public School, and she was also the choir director at St. John's Anglican Church for years. Music was an important part of our home, and that's how I became acquainted with King Wenceslas as a boy. Mom would sing at home.

It became the carol that to me applied most to our weather at Christmas time. Looking outside before leaving for Christmas Eve service, "the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even. Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel..."

As we headed to St. John's, I would hum the carol and think to myself that all that needed to be added to it was the smoke going straight up into the skies, the temperature hovering at Fifty degrees below Fahrenheit and the music and wonderful display at Dr. G.E.Young's office. To this day I remember walking with Mom to the church exchanging  friendly greetings with those heading to the Roman Catholic and United Churches -- an ecumenical moment in the village.

The lyrics were published in 1853 by the English hymn writer John Mason Neale.

Now, the carol addresses a subject that I never thought about much as a child growing up in Chapleau. I had my family, friends and a community where people cared about and helped each other in times of need. 

Even though there were times when I missed my father James E Morris who was killed while on active service in the RCAF in World War II, I had my mother, my grandparents George and Edith Hunt and Harry and Lil Morris as well as my aunt and uncle, Elsie (Hunt) and B.W. 'Bubs" Zufelt and my cousins, and my aunt Marion (Morris) Kennedy. And I had my friends, many of whom are still part of my life today.
My Mom and Dad 

But as the King walks with his page, "a poor man came in sight, Gathering winter fuel." The page tells him that this man lives "underneath the mountain."

On Christmas Eve in Chapleau those many years ago, as we greeted people on the street who were going to or coming from their respective churches, I never really thought about those who may be homeless and without food--- living underneath the mountain, so to speak.

The good King took immediate action though, telling his page to gather food and wine and pine logs that they would take to the peasant and see him dine, "through the rude wind's wild lament, And the bitter weather."

The page was ready to give up as the night grew darker and wind blew stronger, but the King encouraged him and they made it to their destination.

At this Christmas time, I extend my very best wishes to my family and friends who have shared moments of their lives with me during the past year. Thank you so much and Merry Christmas.

My thoughts also turn to all those good people, past and present, who at this Christmas time, reach out and care for those who live "underneath the mountain" in Cranbrook, and in all communities.

 I leave all of you wherever you may be with the last words from 'Good King Wenceslas', 

"Therefore ... be sure, Wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, Shall yourselves find blessing." 

As many of you know, especially my former students, I love metaphor and have been collecting them all my life. I hope I have not mixed them too badly as I have talked about the Good King Wenceslas.

Here is "Good King Wenceslas" by Choir at Yorkminster. My Mom would like this rendition.

Merry Christmas! my email is mj.morris@live.ca

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Eve at St John's Anglican Church Chapleau with Ken, Mike and Ian circa 1952

Once upon a time, Michael McMullen, my cousin, and Ken Schroeder, my good friend, shared an exchange of emails about their role at the midnight service at St. John's Anglican Church where Michael had to fight an itch. Ian Macdonald, another old friend, recalled his role as operator of the chimes and ringer of bells.

Michael asked Ken: "Do you remember the Christmas Eve service (midnight I believe) in either 1952 or 1953 that you and I were charged with standing in the middle aisle and determining when people could go up for communion? 

Ken and Mike
"As I recall the church was packed. One reason that I remember it so vividly is that I had to scratch the back of my leg and was too embarrassed to do anything about it while on duty (and display). The relief to do that downstairs afterwards has been etched in my mind ever since!"

Ken replied: "Funny how some things just stick .." Ken advised us that he has now been promoted to stand guard at the foot of the two steps at their church in Hamilton. "Sigi (his wife) lets them out, one side at a time, and I wait to catch  anybody that falters on the steps .....good job ....."

Ian Macdonald recalled his role: "As an aside, my assignment at St.John's for the Christmas Eve service was operating the chimes. It was a job I inherited from Bob Linklater  who was then studying for the ministry at U of T.
ian Macdonald

"You may recall that  the chimes were actually a recording which was played on a set of large speakers in the St.John's belfry connected to a record player and amplifier in the ante room off of the Vestry. There was a real bell in the belfry in addition to the "virtual chimes" which I heard only on very rare occasions. I'm not sure but I think that Miss Herner donated the  sound system. You probably know better than I."

The service at St. John's  was in 1952 or 1953 when Rev. E. Roy Haddon was the Rector.  As an aside, at that time Michael's father Keith, was the People's Warden and my mother Muriel, and Ken's mother, Edith "Teddy" Schroeder, were in the choir. Yes, Mrs. Grout and her sister Miss Sophie Herner donated it. Below, in a photo taken at the party at the home of Brigitte and Pellow in October, 2014, you can see Ian (third from left in back row), Mike (fifth from left back row) and Ken (on extreme right seated). I am at opposite end seated on Frank Broomhead's knee.. Some of the others in the photo were likely at St John's too.

This anecdote appeared in a longer story several years ago. I just thought it deserved to stand alone!

Best wishes to all for the holiday season and Christmas

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE