What started as a one-man show by Adirondack singer, songwriter and storyteller Christopher Shaw has evolved into “Mountain Snow & Mistletoe,” a two-hour word and music production with his wife, singer-songwriter Bridget Ball, and a three-piece band.
This weekend at The Egg, audiences have an opportunity to see the show, which has become a holiday tradition in the Capital Region.
Shaw, born and raised in the Adirondack mountains, has been singing and telling stories about the Adirondacks all of his adult life. Almost a quarter of a century ago, some local librarians asked him to tour area libraries with a Christmas show, which he did.
A few years later he and Ball decided to record a CD of Christmas music in their living room as a gift for their friends and family.
“That was never supposed to be released to the public,” Shaw said.
The producer of the album had a different idea, and not only was it made available to the public, Shaw and Ball began performing the show at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs and other northeast locations. After several sold-out performances, they decided to offer it at the Saratoga Music Hall and later at a venue in Troy before moving the performance to The Egg.
Mountain Snow and Mistletoe
WHERE: The Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $24
MORE INFO: 473-1845, www.theegg.org
The show combines storytelling with a mix of traditional and original Christmas music. Shaw, who has played American folk and country style music all over the world, sings and plays guitar; Ball, with an impressive resume of her own including several television documentaries, sings.
The Mountain Snow Orchestra rounds out the performing group. It is composed of mandolinist and fiddler John Kirk, guitarist and singer Kevin McKrell and percussionist Brian Melick.
The evening showcases each performer. Ball will treat the audience to original songs and involve them in a round story. As a highlight each year, McKrell and Melick do their own interpretation of “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
“Melick does the sound effects, and it is the funniest thing you’ve ever seen in your life,” Shaw said.
Time to enjoy
He and Ball want to encourage people to let go of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and take time to laugh, sing, and have fun with their families.
The show is designed to be simple, too, without a lot of glitz. “It’s acoustic instruments, a little percussion, and the spoken word,” Shaw said. “It’s the songs and the delivery that sell it.”
In a style that has been described as “down home,” the performers want to give the audience a fun and heartfelt experience. “In a time when I think a lot of things that have to do with the season can seem a bit contrived and commercial, we try to stay as far away from that as we possibly can, and I think people find that refreshing,” he said.
While the show doesn’t vary that much from year to year, there’s a reason. “What we found out real quickly is that people don’t like their holiday traditions diddled with very much, and they’re not afraid to let you know that,” Shaw said. So, rather than changing it, it has become a matter of adding to the favorites already on the program.
The performance is a mix of the moving and the humorous, all designed to give the audience that feel-good holiday spirit. “It’s probably one of the most upbeat shows that you’re going to find,” Shaw said.
To add even more to that aspect, proceeds from the show will benefit the Troy-based Let’s Share the Sun Foundation, an organization whose mission is to bring solar energy to some of the poorest communities in the world.
Lighting a light
Shaw points out that while Haiti is not in the news much any more, the people there are in as dire straits as they were when the earthquake hit in 2010. Those who have electricity might only have it for five hours a day. Let’s Share the Sun plans to install solar panels in health-care and educational facilities in Fond des Blancs, Haiti, where sun is a plentiful commodity. They also plan to supply solar-powered lanterns that families can use in their homes when the electricity is not on.
Shaw and Ball open and close the show with the song “Light a Light,” and audiences will have the opportunity to see some of the lanterns at the performance.
Sign language interpreter Trudy Gilbert will be signing both performances this weekend.