December 10th, 2009


“Psycho Santa, Christmas Day. Fa-la-la-la, Fa-la-la-la…”

The title of this post is my conception of what the refrain to a Talking Heads Christmas carol would sound like. I know that not all of you are Talking Heads fans, so let’s move on to another topic…

On the Saturday before Christmas, I will be appearing onstage at Chicago’s famous Old Town School of Folk Music. Yay me! So will I be standing there with my banjo and harmonica, singing about heartbreak, social injustice, and ridin’ the rails? Golly no. It’s like this…

For many years, the Chicago Tribune has been sponsoring an annual Christmas carol sing-a-long concert, with the proceeds going to local charities. Long-time readers of this journal may recall that I took part in last year’s concert by virtue of being a finalist in an essay-writing and singing competition. I didn’t win but I had a blast. Well, I’m back.

This year, columnists Mary Schmich and Eric Zorn of the Trib are putting together a Christmas carol trivia quiz that will be run in the paper at some point. The questions have all been submitted by readers. I submitted several entries, and at least one of mine was chosen for inclusion in the quiz. My prize is that, on the night of the sing-a-long concert, I will be on the stage as a contestant in a “Christmas Carol Trivia Smackdown.”

So far as I know, there is no additional prize for winning the trivia contest (aside from all the attendant glory), but a big part of the thrill for me will simply be standing on that stage. It is one of the very finest concert halls I’ve ever been in. The acoustics and sightlines are absolutely glorious, so I’m looking forward to that on top of everything else! The concert itself is also tons of fun. Musicians from the Old Town School will be onstage playing and leading the singing. Lyric booklets are provided to all patrons. If you’re ever planning to be in Chicago in December, it’s pretty much the most fun you’ll have sittin’ up all season. This year’s concert, I’m told, is already sold out, so I’m afraid you’ll have to buy from scalpers if you want to see me make a fool of myself in public (again) (though I can also make a fool of myself by private appointment).

Postscript — The format for the quiz was specified as multiple choice. They offered examples of the sort of questions they were looking for, and they weren’t looking for anything too difficult or arcane. Here are the four questions I sent in to the Trib:

In “The Christmas Song” to what kind of “kids” am I “offering this simple phrase”?
A. Kids who are perfect in every way
B. Kids from 1 to 92
C. Kids up and down the square
D. Kids we have heard on high
E. Kids in a one-horse open sleigh

How did all the reindeer respond to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer after he guided Santa’s sleigh?
A. They loved him
B. They cheered him
C. They let him join in the reindeer games
D. They accepted him
E. They friended him

This popular Christmas song was originally written for the Broadway musical “Mame”:
A. Silver Bells
B. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
C. We Need a Little Christmas
D. Santa Baby

“Adeste Fidelis” is:
A. The original title of “Silent Night”
B. The traditional Latin title of “O Come All Ye Faithful”
C. An early composer of Christmas carols
D. The taxonomic term for the Arctic reindeer
  • Current Music
    The Winner Takes It All - Abba