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Round John Virgil

December 11, 2013
BY CHUCK CLEGG - Columnist , Wetzel Chronicle

It is the time of year more than any other, we are surrounded by music. The Christmas season has for many years brought not only the thoughts of sugar plum fairies but also the thoughts of "Jingle Bells". By the way "Jingle Bells" was believed to be written as a song for Thanksgiving.

We think of the songs at this time of year to be Christmas Carols, songs of joy and happiness. The term is thought to have been first derived to mean songs of a religious nature. Today, we enjoy a wide array of songs both religious and "Ho, Ho, Ho, here comes Santa Claus"-type songs.

As we go about our days in December, it is almost impossible to go shopping and not hear Christmas music playing in the stores and on the car radio. Sometimes I think, "Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh" is overdone when I hear it played for the 200th time. Have you ever tried to remember the words to "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" in Spanish by, Latino singer Jose Feliciano? It seemed like every time you change the channel on a radio you hear it playing. I'll teach you the words, "Feliz Navidad." There, that was not hard, was it? When recorded, Jose added these words to the song, "I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas, from the bottom of my heart." In order to sing the song, repeat those words over and over and over. Try it, you just might like it.

Songs like, "Frosty the Snowman", "Deck the Halls", "Here Comes Santa Claus", and "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" are songs we each know the words to. Most people can sing, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" without missing a word. Of course you have to sing it as if you were singing with Burl Ives who popularized the song in the Christmas TV special by the same name.

I enjoy the old songs especially when sung by those I grew up listening to. Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas" or Judy Garland's version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" or "The Christmas Song" sung by the gentle voice of Nat King Cole. "Chestnuts roasting by an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose." Close your eyes and listen to the words and perhaps you can remember Christmas at home with family.

In the early 1960s, I was part of the New Martinsville Boys Choir under the direction of Libby Frances. She taught me to sing and appreciate what can be created with your voice. I remember the sound when our voices were joined in harmony and the gift of music when performed by the choir. One song in particular I remember very well, "The Little Drummer Boy". Even after 50 years I still remember the magic of that song as our voices sang in unison, "Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum." If memory serves me, they made a recording of that choir's music performed in the old music center next to the high school. That was a very long time ago.

I guess one of my favorite singers is Perry Como. He had a variety hour show on TV and each year he would have a family Christmas special. One song I still enjoy hearing, "There is no Place like Home". When I was in the service that song reminded me of home and West Virginia. In 1969, I spent my first Christmas in uniform. I had hoped to get a leave and return to spend the holidays with family. That did not happen. In the day room of the barracks they had a tree for all the young men like me away from home for the first time. I remember "There is No Place Like Home" playing on the PA system. That year I felt further from home than ever.

Some of the most beautiful Christmas music is of a religious nature-words of songs that bring memories of the true meaning of Christmas. "Away in a Manger", "Do You Hear What I Hear", "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear", and "Oh Holy Night" are just a few of the many songs that tell of the true meaning of this time of year. Each song in many ways is a lesson or a prayer to remember what is important in our lives. They sing of angels and shepherds. They tell of a silent night and kings from afar. And they tell of a town long ago in far land called Bethlehem.

I will tell you a story I heard somewhere along life's path and it has always stuck with me. I hope it brings joy to you this day. Before it was decided religion was politically incorrect in our schools, a teacher taught her students about Christmas by using songs. One day when they finished singing and talking of Christmas and its meaning, the teacher gave the children an assignment. "Children, we have sung the songs and discussed the meaning of Christmas, I would like for each of you to draw a picture of the first Christmas."

The room filled with the children gathering their drawing pads from their desks and setting about the assignment. The children were smiling as they moved colorful crayons over the paper creating what they each believed the first Christmas must have looked like in that distant stable. After a while the teacher announced for the class to finish their assignment. Each of the children completed their work and placed their pictures on the corner of her desk. In a few moments, the classroom was quiet as all the children had left for their homes.

As she looked through the pictures, she smiled at the drawings of that first Christmas. The children had drawn the stable with great skill and placed wise men and shepherds around the child and his parents. The night sky over the stable was filled with stars while other drawings had only one above the manger. She was pleased with what the children had learned from her lesson.

She came to the last picture, it was Jimmy's. His picture was very well done and all that were present that long ago night were in place in his picture. But, Jimmy had one more person in the picture. Behind the child, in between Joseph and Mary, was a plump heavy set man holding a round yellow ring above the baby. The teacher was puzzled by the man and what he was doing in the stable. But, her curiosity would have to wait until the next week when the students returned.

Christmas came and went and soon the children returned. The teacher began class by retuning the pictures to each of the students. She saved Jimmy's for last. As she laid it on his desk she pointed to the man holding the golden circle and in a gentle voice she asks, "Who is this behind the Child?" The boy looked up and with a broad smile said, "Why, that is Round John Virgil, like in the song, Silent Night."

The teacher was more puzzled than ever. The boy smiled as he began to sing the song to the teacher. "'Silent Night. Holy Night. All is calm; all is bright. Round John Virgil, mother and child.' I figured he was there to hold the baby's halo. Jesus was so small that first night he needed someone's help and like the song said, it must have been Round John Virgil."

We each can find meaning in songs, sometimes a memory or a smile. Other times a moment from our past of warm thoughts and feelings.

And perhaps like Jimmy we need to believe in miracles and have a little faith that Round John Virgil will always be there to help as we look Thru the Lens.



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