We think romantically of charming Christmases in New England or Pennsylvania in the early days of our nation, but the truth is colder and harsher: Puritans were decidedly anti-Christmas, and even the Quakers treated the day as no different from any other. Instead, let’s go back to the earliest voyage to the new Catholic Colony of Maryland, where (as we learn from settler Hester Dorsey Richardson), the Catholics prayed mightily as bad weather swept the good ship The Ark in the Advent season of 1633; things improved so much that “From this time to our journey's end, about three months, we had not one houre of bad weather, but so prosprous a nauvigation as our mariners never saw so sweet a passage.” Christmas that year on the ship was a joyous one.
When there was an attempt in the new colony to abolish the first acts of religious toleration in the New World by a group of Puritans also burned Catholic churches in Maryland, the great influx of Anglicans helped to mediate between faiths, and tolerance was reinstated. The Anglicans also loved Christmas: from the time St. Anne’s Parish was established in 1692, there are many stories of the true Colonial Christmas spirit. In the early 18th century Maryland Reverend George Herbert, wanted one and all to be sure "that the church be swept, and kept clean without dust, or cobwebs, and at great festivals strewed, and stuck with boughs, and perfumed with incense." Christ Church, on the West River, dates from 1867. It’s built in the “Carpenter Gothic” style that A.J. Davis advocated in the era, and is the happy home of Maggie’s latest Christmas celebration.
It’s appropriate we have an Irish singer in Pat Egan: the bragging rights for the first Irish to succeed in the New World belong to this little state. The scion of the huge clan whose mark is across the founding of the nation, Charles Carroll, was an Irish Catholic. A well-educated student of law, he came to Maryland from Ireland in 1688 to serve Lord Baltimore as Attorney General. Our Scottish performer, Sharon Knowles will also be most at home on these shores. From Ninian Beall’s Maryland settlement of Scots in the early 1670s, to the subsequent Jacobites who were captured and sold as servants (or, in the case of so many, escaped to a Catholic-tolerant land after the defeat of Bonny Prince Charlie), this has been a home to people who celebrated Christmas with a Celtic temperament. Maggie’s Italian heritage is here as well. After the first craftsmen came in the early 1630s, Catholic Maryland was deemed a haven for Italian refugees; a formal declaration of the Lords Proprietaries of Maryland in 1649 encouraged Italians to migrate to the colony. And, in deference to our wonderful fiddler Andrea Hoag, the settlements that made up New Sweden extended into Maryland for decades.
The pieces we’ve chosen are completely in keeping with a place and time of many merging traditions—recent and far past, Old World and New, sacred and joyous, thoughtful and hopeful. Our thoughts and hopes are with you and for you in this season: and may we be dreamers for a moment, and also wish that the idea of religious tolerance that was proffered 365 years ago in St. Mary’s City may once again catch fire in the hearts of everyone. ~ Robert Aubry Davis
Liner notes by Robert Aubry Davis of public radio and television and Sirius/XM Satellite Radio. He is creator and host of the early music program Millennium of Music.
All tunes traditional except Tr. 9, Christ Church Cathedral by John Sheahan; Tr. 10, Planting in Winter Andrea Hoag, Wildflower Seed Music (BMI) Publisher: Wonders Crossroads Music (BMI)/Maggie’s Music Administration.
Booklet: Art Director: Maggie Sansone;
Graphics: Viki Garte;
Cover photo: Jordache/Shutterstock.com;
Artists Photos: Maggie Sansone by Viki Garte, Andrea Hoag by Tom Radcliffe, Sharon Knowles by Dan McDermott, Patrick Egan by Sean McComisky.
Mixing and Mastering Engineer: Charlie Pilzer (Airshow Mastering Takoma, www.airshowmastering.com;
Recording Engineer: Gary Bowden (www.alchemyaudio.net) recorded the music live in 2012 and 2013 at the historic Christ Church, West River, Maryland (USA). .
Christ Church , West River (www. christchurchwestriver.org), Connie McKenna, Richard Crenshaw and the staff at Maggie’s Music; Patrick Egan thanks Tony Small for the song I Wonder As I Wonder.
For more information,bookings, licensing, wholesale purchasing of this recording, Contact: Maggie’s Music, PO BOX 490, SHADY SIDE,MD 20764. firstname.lastname@example.org (410) 867-0642 www.maggiesmusic.com
About the Musicians
Maggie Sansone (hammered dulcimer). One of America’s leading hammered dulcimer players, Maggie has performed and toured in Celtic and early music ensembles and owns Maggie’s Music, an independent, award-winning record label which pioneered the adventurous mix of two musical styles (chamber ensemble music and folk music), known as “chamber folk” and was profiled on CBS- TV “Sunday Morning.” She is known for her Celtic and holiday recordings, is a popular performer at Celtic, renaissance and folk festivals around the United States and has won over two dozen WAMMIE awards for Celtic/Traditional Musician and Record Label from the Washington Area Music Association. www.maggiesmusic.com
Andrea Hoag (fiddle) is a GRAMMY® nominee (for her Christmas recording Hambo in the Snow) and recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award. She has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and Performance Today, at the Kennedy Center and Library of Congress, and on numerous recordings and venues around the U.S. and abroad. Andrea is the founder of Freyda’s Hands, an arts non-profit fostering collaboration and education across the traditional performing arts, and a founding member of the acclaimed cross-cultural Dovetail Ensemble. www.andreahoag.com
Sharon Knowles (Celtic harp) immigrated to the US from Argyll in the Highlands of Scotland. She quickly became a sought after performer, teacher, and conductor of harp workshops from North Carolina to Alaska and has toured in Europe and Scandinavia. Sharon was the first harp player to perform with both a Highland dancer and an Irish dancer - one example of her innovative attitude towards the Celtic Traditions.www.fynesound.com
Patrick Egan (guitar, vocals) is a singer and guitar player from Tipperary, Ireland known for his powerful emotive delivery and sensitive interpretation of songs and his driving Irish guitar playing. In 2015 he won the Wammie award for Best Trad/Folk singer (Washington Area Music Association). A sought after musicians, he has toured and recorded for twelve years with the Irish band Chulrua , and currently performs and collaborates with various musicians in the Irish and Old time genre. www.pateganmusic.blogspot.com