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1 Peace at Christmas
2 In the Bleak Midwinter
3 Making Holy Dreams Come True
4 The Child of Christmas
5 Candle of Hope
6 Bethlehem is Calling
7 Don’t Blame God for Christmas (written by Garth and Pete Meadows)
8 Little Boy Down
9 Nothing But a Child
10 Shine On (Star of Bethlehem)
11 Silent Night
12 Prayer for Christmas Eve
13 One of Us (with Paul Field)
14 Light a Candle in the Darkness
“Your Christmas album arrived today in the post – what a joy! Beautifully presented and love the music. God bless the Mandolin. Silent Night – wow! Love the piano on Shine On. Lovely little message inside as well. Christmas is such a special time and your words from your book ‘Occupied Territories‘ are so prophetic.”
Garth says of this album,
“For some time I’ve wanted to do a Christmas album and I’m delighted that back in April up in Bury St Edmunds with GingerDog Records the album Peace at Christmas was recorded.
Half the songs are new or newly recorded – and the others are tracks I picked that seemed suitable for the album.
There were two musical influences in my mind when I came to do the album – one was Johnny Cash’s Christmas album ‘The Christmas Spirit’ – this is an album we have listened to in the family for years and one interesting thing is that he speaks a lot of the album with Christmas carols playing behind him. I have done two items on Peace at Christmas the same way – one, Making Holy Dreams Come True and two, Prayer for Christmas Eve. These are prayers and meditations that I have written, and I’ve used the American tunes of ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ and ‘Away in a Manger’ as the background for them.
The other person who influenced me was John Lennon with ‘Happy Christmas (War is over)’ – I’ve always been very struck by that bit “War is over, if you want it,” and I felt this album should have that commitment to a rejection of violence, which is a key part of the Christmas and Christian message.
The relevance of the message of Christmas at the moment could not be higher – Jesus is born into poverty or at least a very simple way of life, the way of the people of power or empire is consciously rejected, there is a massacre of children in Bethlehem, and of course Jesus was soon a refugee fleeing for his life through Gaza down to Africa.
We have seen so many refugees in the past year, so many of them have died – many children, and of course in the conflict in Syria so many children have died, but this has been true through the years also in Palestine – children are imprisoned today by the Israelis in the land once known as holy.
So on the album I have included a song called Little Boy Down, which is the sad and shocking story of Aylan Kurdi. I’ve also then recorded a song of Steve Earle called Nothing But A Child which has a powerful Christmas message – the shock for the wise men to discover they had travelled all that distance for, as he puts it, “nothing but a child”; but then they discover this child is the sign of hope.
I put a couple of favourite traditional numbers on the album – In the Bleak Midwinter and Silent Night, and recorded it with many of the musicians who were on Something for the Soul – Chris Rogers on Violin, Paul McDowell on accordion and Pete Banks on backing vocals with Abbie Goldberg, and with Kevin Duncan producing the album and playing several instruments.
One that I recorded several years back and put on the Bethlehem Palestine album is Shine on (Star of Bethlehem) which was produced by Paul Wilkinson – recorded walking distance from our house in Wapping – with Pete Wilson from Duke Special playing piano and doing backing vocals. Also on the album is One of Us, a song I wrote in the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square in Bethlehem; originally that went on the Dalit Drum album produced by Paul Field, who also sings on it. The album ends with the Christmas version of Light a Candle in the Darkness.
There is also a song that I recorded on the album Stronger than the Storm called Don’t Blame God for Christmas, which I wrote with Peter Meadows many years back now. In fact he gave me some lyrics just as I was going off on a tour of the States and you can tell in the verses that’s where I am, and the choruses are his words.
The Child of Christmas and Peace at Christmas are both songs that pick up the hope and the rejection of violence and domination that came with the Prince of Peace.
I really enjoyed recording this album. Doing it in April brought some curious moments – Silent Night is inescapably Christmassy and when I came out of the studio I discovered that everyone had been singing along to it! Someone suggested getting Christmas decorations and Santa hats but I resisted that strongly!
I wanted the album to have a good Christmas feel, to be ideal to start playing at the beginning of December or the beginning of Advent. But I also wanted the album not to forget that we live in a painful world and the message and lifestyle of the Prince of Peace is a radical revolution of the values of the Kingdom or community of God that go up against the empires of our world; the empires are dependent on their weapons and the members of the community of God use the values of non violence, equality, peace, justice and love. Christmas introduces us to this amazing story of God’s revolution of love.
One of the spoken pieces on the album is Making Holy Dreams Come True – a prayer for peace with justice for the Palestinians which in turn will offer peace and security for the Israelis.
Let’s make sure that the Palestinian story is part of our Christmas story so the people of the Holy Land are not forgotten this Christmas.”