Friday, July 12, 2024

The Christmas Hooley comes but once a year

Glen Hartle
Shawville Dec. 15, 2023
St. Paul’s Anglican Church has been around a long time. The first Anglican service was way back in 1827. The initial church building held service for the first time in 1842 and the building we now know as St. Paul’s was consecrated in 1880.
While the Hooley hasn’t been around quite that long, it has been a part of St. Paul’s since 2015. Each Friday evening has seen musicians and locals circle to the hall at the back of the church for what has become known as a bit of a shout out to the Irish roots of town and the old-style kitchen parties which took place in the old country.
With little-to-no protocol other than “let’s play music and have fun”, the gathering has always been informal and completely rife with joyful toe-tapping, finger-snapping and lip-syncing accompaniment.
This past Friday saw the Christmas version of the Hooley and it was wholly true to form.
On stage were no less than 17 musicians who spread the width of the hall and spilled into the first row of seats. The entire ensemble cast included faces familiar to the Hooley as Cathy Scullion, Christine Anderson, Joe Burke, Robert Wills, Robert Brown, Paulette Gauthier, Celine Abbott, Barrie Murray, Sandy Ireland, Brian Kilgour, Bobbie Dale, Brent Plouffe, Lynne Tourangeau, Mike Baader and Cliff Welsh all making return trips to the stage. Young new additions included fiddle-playing phenoms, Every Griffen and Laura Sally.
While the official start of the program was 7 p.m., the entertainment began much earlier as musicians prepared themselves and their gear for the show. Bows were rosined, guitars were tuned, mics were adjusted, music sheets were sorted, amps were dialed in, fingers were limbered and anticipation was rampant. Off stage, a growing crowd made clear their intent on having a good time and members of the Anglican Young Women’s Association (AYMA) made ready the hall, stocked the refreshment counter, greeted newcomers and offered tickets for both a 50/50 draw and an annual Christmas basket draw full of goodies valued at more than $700.
Once the music started, it did not stop for almost two and a half hours of joyful celebration. It started with Christmas in the Valley and 41 songs later ended with, naturally, a We Wish You A Merry Christmas singalong for everyone. In between, attendees were treated to everything from known Christmas tunes like Joy to the World, Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells, as well as to some outlier and yet equally compelling numbers such as Debbie’s Waltz, Will the Circle be Unbroken and Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms.
Robert Wills brought the house down with what could have easily been a part of an encore set with a song he penned himself called The Chicken Song wherein he actually clucks and crows as a part of the lyrics. Celine Abbott created a stir with her all-in rendition of Rita MacNeil’s Working Man as she held nothing back and brought the audience along with her. Brent Plouffe’s blue guitar sang out, as it always does, as he crafted riff and augmented each song with melody, harmony or rhythm and sometimes all at once. It was always delightful to hear Abbott call out “Brent!” inviting him to jump in and take the song she was singing even higher.
There was a familiarity to the whole evening which truly had it feeling like a family gathering. Kids were at the back of the hall playing with toy trucks, there were smiles and quiet chatter all around, people could be seen testing the refreshment bar while stopping to meet and greet along the way, and nowhere was there anything even resembling a hurry.
The Hooley takes a break for Christmas but will be back early in the new year. Check the Community Calendar here at THE EQUITY for dates, and, Merry Christmas from their kitchen to yours.


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