Sunday, December 19, 2010

What to My Wondering Eyes
December Photo Project Day #19

Malik Reads Night Before... Part 2

Each December, the Church of the Intercession in Harlem holds an annual reading of A Visit from St. Nicholas (better known to you and me as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas.")

The author of the poem, Clement Clark Moore, was a New Yorker.  He used to live in what is now the neighborhood of Chelsea, but what was - back in his day - farm land.  In fact, when Moore donated part of his estate in the 1820's to help establish The General Theological Seminary (still in Chelsea today), he described the donated land as a “quiet, rural retreat on the picturesque banks of the Hudson.”  Things have changed a little since then.

At the Seminary (and I believe also up at Columbia), Moore was a Professor of Biblical Languages.  In 1809, he compiled a Hebrew lexicon - the first of its kind to be published in America.  Homeboy was a Hebrew scholar!  A man after my own heart.

But he is best remembered today for his poem about Santa Claus, which is given new voice each year at the Church of the Intercession's event.  The event begins (nicely) with a reading of the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke, followed by several Christmas carols, and then usually a vocal/dance performance by a local children's group.  After that, all the children in attendance gather at the front of the church to hear Moore's poem read.

Each year, a different celebrity is picked to read.  When I attended a few years ago, it was jazz musician Wynton Marsalis.  This year, it was Malik Yoba, who you may know (and love) from his role as Ice the Bounty Hunter / Caterer on TV's Arrested Development.

Malik Yoba Reads Night Before Christmas

ICE!  He did a great job - very animated and personable and likeable.

After the poem there was a performance by a jazz trio.  They had a singer, who worked the crowd by traveling up and down the center aisle, extending his microphone so attendees could join him in singing a phrase or two of Jingle Bells.  He also, oddly, sang "Nature Boy," and while it was a lovely rendition, I did not understand its inclusion in a Christmas concert.  But I guess there are a lot of things I don't understand in this world.  So - c'est la vie.

All in all, it was a sweet afternoon and a sweet way to celebrate the season.

And thanks, Beks, for making the trip to Harlem with me!

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