*Cathy Miller ** Eileen McGann ** David K*

Two Thousand Years of Christmas

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P.O. Box 163
Mill Bay, BC Canada, V0R 2P0

Xmas CD

The Trilogy CD:
A Musical Celebration of the
History and Spirit of Christmas

At last - a Christmas CD that breaks through the tinsel and commercialization to the vast wealth of tradition that surrounds our most joyous holiday.
This musical celebration takes you through twenty centuries of the rich culture of Christmas: songs and carol from ancient, mediaeval and modern times.

Though we tend to hear the same few carols and songs over and over again, there are hundreds of others - joyful, funny, spiritual or solemn - that are rarely heard. Through two thousand years, one common thread is the custom of communities gathering together and singing. Two Thousand Years of Christmas is designed to further that tradition and bring it up to date, with new, old and lesser-known carols, hymns, rounds, songs and ballads.

The CD features music from the stage show that has been mesmerizing audiences across Canada for the past two years. It has quickly become a concert favourite in Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto; it was featured in 1995 on its own national CBC radio Boxing Day special, and on "Morningside" in 1994 after an appearance at Tom Jackson's "Huron Carol".

Highlights include rare Christmas material such as "O Magnum Mysterium" from the 14th Century, the haunting "Down in Yon Forest", a new swingy version of "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch", a Christmas rewrite of the bluegrass gospel "Light from the Lighthouse", and the heartwrenchingly true WWI story "Christmas in the Trenches" by John McCutcheon. Of the 17 tracks, there are 5 traditional songs and 5 Trilogy originals.

**Alas, this CD is now out of print. **


Trilogy: Two Thousand Years of Christmas
(Dragonwing Music)
review by: Robert Reid, Kitchener-Waterloo Record

The brainchild of Trilogy-consisting of Calgary folk performers Cathy Miller, David K, and Eileen McGann, Two Thousand Years of Christmas is one of the most exciting of the new entries in the highly competitive field of Yuletide albums.

Based on a musical stage show Trilogy developed three years ago, the album lives up to its description as a "musical celebration of the history and spirit of Christmas."

Much of the period music, which dates as far back as the 15th century, is rare or unfamiliar. The contemporary songs some of which are written by Miller and McGann, capture the essence of the Yuletide tradition.

Miller and McGann are both known in folk circles for the quality of their voices and K. is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist.

But what makes the album such a distinctive treat is the magical power of their three voices in harmony.


Concert review
History of Christmas is brought to life
by Ann V. Harvie
Brooks, Alberta

Humour tradition and music brought to life the history of Christmas when Alberta's Trilogy came to Griffin Park Theatre on Sunday afternoon.

This is the group's third year touring with their special seasonal show, "Two Thousand Years of Christmas."

Eileen McGann, David K, and Cathy Miller have combined their diverse abilities to present a folk-flavoured couple of hours traveling through the Christmas traditions of the ages.

The Christmas celebration as McGann, who has a Master's in Mediaeval Studies, explained, takes place at the time of the older festival of the Winter Solstice, a time deliberately chosen by early Christians to take advantage of an already established pagan habit.

Many of the songs and customs reflect this ancient origin, and the performers supplemented the music with a nice variety of props symbolizing some of the older beliefs and superstitions.

Apples and a singing cow puppet appeared for the Wassail songs of Old England, mistletoe for the story of its origin which goes back to the Old Norse goddess Frigga (whose name. incidentally, is the origin of our word Friday), and a jester's cap for the Medieval song "Who's the Fool Now," was gallantly worn with dignity by David K.

As you can see, there was plenty of fascinating history conveyed to the audience in a pleasantly painless way but there was plenty of music too.

All three members of Trilogy have good, strong earthy voices, very suited to music which has its roots in folk traditions, and which accommodated themselves very nicely to the wide variety of styles in the genre.

This included pieces from the mists of history like the Traditional Wassails, and some beautiful a capella carols in Latin, the most memorable being, as Cathy Miller put it, "the first Latin sing-along" Dona Nobis Pacem with which the audience did, indeed, sing along.

But it wasn't all ancient music. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas was also represented in a down and dirty jazz number with David K as a convincingly mean and grubby Grinch and the two ladies doing some laid back scat singing as backup.

Canadian Christmas traditions were comically celebrated in The Snow Shanty, written by McGann to a traditional sea shanty melody and extolling the joys of snow shoveling as well as more seriously in the always beautiful Huron Carol.

Christmas isn't a celebration for everyone, however, and the loneliness of the season for the homeless was highlighted in a sad song, again by McGann, called Turn It Around.

Probably the most poignant piece was Christmas in the Trenches, sung with great feeling by Miller, about the spontaneous Christmas amnesty and soccer game in the trenches during World War One.

Really, an amazing amount of ground was covered in a short afternoon, and in such a highly entertaining way. As one lady remarked at the end, "It's great to see such a good concert and," she added proudly, "from Albertans, too."


Two Thousand Years of Christmas: The Soundtrack
Trilogy (Dragonwing Music)

review by: Val Cormier

Trilogy is Alberta's Eileen McGann, Cathy Miller and David Knutson, and this wonderful CD is indeed the "soundtrack" to their popular Christmas show, which has become an annual tradition in many Canadian cities.

The first 10 tracks (Act I) are traditional songs such as 'The Huron Carol", "The Coventry Carol", and other carols & wassail songs. The glowing harmonies and polished arrangements bring to mind the English Trad sound of Artisan.

Act II - 7 tracks - is a mix of songs, mostly original compositions by Cathy and Eileen. They also cover the classic Dr. Seuss song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," and John McCutcheon's "Christmas in the Trenches." "Snow Shanty," loosely based on a familiar sea shanty, is a rollicking "tribute" to that white stuff with which Albertans are amply acquainted. "Turn it Around," written by Eileen and inspired by a homeless man in a Toronto bus shelter makes a strong impact. The winter scenes of the song are a metaphorical setting for the desolation of the spirit that many face every day of the year. The Dickens quote in the liner notes for this track is most fitting: "At this festive season of the year, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute. It is at Christmas time that want is most keenly felt, and abundance rejoices." This album is a healthy antidote to the cynicism many of us feel upon seeing the Obligatory Christmas Standards Albums cranked out by too many record labels this time of year. It's a marvelous CD which is hopefully destined to become a holiday staple in many households. If we're lucky, maybe Trilogy will grace Vancouver with the live version next season.

Trilogy concert rekindles true meaning of Christmas
By Robert Reid Record staff
The Record, Kitchener, Ontario, Dec. 11, 1996

At a time when cynicism and commercialism are turning even the most generous of souls into Scrooges, taking the humbug out of Christmas is no easy feat. But that's exactly what three Calgary based folksingers have done with Two Thousand Years of Christmas.

Eileen McGann, Cathy Miller and David Knutson (known as David K) all have flourishing solo careers. However, three years ago the longtime friends decided to form a trio, appropriately called Trilogy for the sole purpose of putting together a Christmas program that would enable them to perform together for a short period every year.

The result is a theatrical concert that celebrates the history and spirit of Christmas through music, stories, sing-a-longs and an audience participation quiz that tests the trio's encyclopedic knowledge of holiday traditions and customs.

Sponsored by the Old Chestnuts Song Circle, the Tuesday night concert at Kitchener's Zion United Church went a long way to rekindling the meaning of Christmas for the 300 people lucky enough to attend. Although the press material indicates that the program consists of two 45 minute sets, they were both closer to an hour in duration, with the music and rehearsed narrative tracing some of the most significant Yuletide customs and traditions, along with informal anecdotes and playful banter.

The first set featured 10 early songs and carols, dating back to the l5th century.

The first couple of songs - 0 Magnum Mysterium and Down in Yon Forest - were sung a cappella which emphasized one of the most pleasant aspects of the concert, the richly textured two and three part harmonies McGann, Miller, and K build on a foundation of excellent lead vocals.

In addition to such lovely carols as Coventry Carol, Huron Carol (itself worth the price of admission) and G.P. da Palestrina's beautiful 16th century - Dona Nobis Pacem, the set contained some rousing wassails and the traditional American spiritual Light from the Lighthouse, with additional lyrics,by Trilogy.

Introduced by K reading a poignant 1884 newspaper account of the homeless in Toronto, McGann delivered Turn It Around, her powerful song about the poor and the destitute. The other highlight in the set was Miller's deeply moving reading of John McCutcheon's contemporary classic Christmas In the Trenches, which depicts events connected to an actual Christmas truce in the trenches of 1914 when allied and German soldiers put down their guns for an evening of peace and good will rather than death and destruction. Balancing these tender and evocative songs were Snow Shanty; about shoveling snow, and You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, delivered ala Blues Brothers, complete with sunglasses and attitude. Interspersed among the songs were stories that bridged religions and spanned mythologies about the origins of mistletoe, Christmas trees and St. Nicholas, among other Christmas traditions.

Throughout the two sets, McGann, Miller and K. decorated a Christmas tree with various song props (from scarves and tankards to flutes and bells).

Lumps formed in throats when an army helmet was placed under the tree after Christmas in the Trenches. Trilogy answered all but one quiz question. They were stumped by the question: who is Round John Virgin? But they offered some informative tidbits about candy canes and socks hung on mantles ("with care").

The concert ended on a lovely note with an encore a cappella rendition of 0 Holy Night, which segued into a few bars of Light from the Lighthouse.

Two Thousand Years of Christmas is a festive holiday cornucopia brimming with gorgeous music, generosity of spirit and good cheer. It reaffirms that Christmas need not be trite, mundane, sentimental or commercial. And it reminds us that the spirit of Christmas lives in music and song, both old and new; sacred and profane.

Here's hoping that Trilogy makes Kitchener-Waterloo a regular stop on its annual Yuletide pilgrimage across this vast, snowbound Northern country of ours with their shimmer of light at the darkest time of the year.

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