There Came A Dream So Fair…….

Richard Crooks is not familiar to everyone, but his name is the one most likely to spring into my mind as Christmas approaches. The concept of Christmas means different things to different people. Some, especially in America, would have it a solely Christian festival, denied to those they class as “unbelievers”.

My concept of Christmas goes back to when I was seven or eight years old. Then, I had no clear idea of the Christian aspect, but believed fervently in Santa Claus, or Father Christmas as we called him in England.

That one year I had developed a passion to own my own gramophone and dutifully wrote of my desire in a letter to Father Christmas, posting it up the chimney and watching the red-hot, fiery embers – soldiers, we called them – marching up the chimney throat before being carried away on the updraught to Santa’s grotto at the North Pole.

Early Christmas morning found me creeping downstairs before dawn, profoundly excited as I glimpsed – not any old gramophone – but the very latest electric turntable, designed to play through the big walnut-cased, superheterodyne, valve (tubes, in American) radio receiver already esconsced on the family sideboard in the living room.

A note from Father Christmas, in a hand very similar to my father’s, demanded I not touch it until Daddy had arranged the wiring properly. Consequently, the next few hours were spent opening other presents and stuffing my face with candy, until later that morning the record player was ready for its first trial.

Some weeks before Christmas my mother had innocently asked me to name my favorite piece of music. Without hesitation, I proclaimed, “Jerusalem!” – the famous, nationalistic, hymn composed by William Blake and sung regularly at my grade school assembly, that begins:

“And did those feet in ancient times, walk upon England’s mountains green?”

I loved the rising crescendo that finally proclaims the question:

“And was Jerusalem builded here, among those dark, satanic mills?”

My mother was never renowned for either her precision or a good memory. So when the player was finally ready for the off, and I opened the big, wooden drawer that gave access to the turntable, there on the felt mat was a twelve inch bakelite platter entitled, “The Holy City” by Richard Crooks (tenor).

Not that I was at all bothered. Frankly, Daffy Duck performing “Oh, what a beautiful morning” from Oklahoma would have been just as welcome, but when the great man began to sing I knew he was definitely not Daffy Duck.

With a brand new record player and only one recording, the inevitable happened. Once Christmas dinner was done and the dishes cleared away, my parents rapidly disappeared into the front parlor to watch TV and left me alone to play, for the umpteenth time, “The Holy City” by Richard Crooks (tenor). As his rich, deep tones emanated from the ten inch speaker of the walnut-cased radio, the day slowly faded to twilight, and as I gazed in wonder out the window, snow began gently to fall outside.

That moment – the snow; the crackle of a coal fire; the twilight, and Richard Crooks singing “The Holy City”, will for me be forever the epitome of Christmas.

“Last night I lay a-sleeping, there came a dream so fair, I stood in old Jerusalem beside the temple there. I heard the church bells ringing, and ever as they rang, methought the voice of angels from heaven in answer sang…..”

I stopped believing in Father Christmas a few years later. I stopped believing in Christianity some years after that. But I still believe in Christmas, and I still believe in Richard Crooks.

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6 Replies to “There Came A Dream So Fair…….”

  1. I agree with Peacechick. I had never heard of sending the letter to Santa up the chimney – a nicer tradition than the post office and actually makes more sense.

  2. We have much in common and the best of which is that I believe believe in Christmas too. I don’t know if the magic is the past or the present or the hope for the future, but there is a magic and it does happen often at Christmas.

    Do I understand your bio correctly? Did you work in
    Britain’s society for the Prevention of cruelty to animals? If so you are an animal appreciator and so am I. Seems I have made a new friend. See? Chistmas magic stikes again

    Merry Christmas Sparrow Chat 🙂 I loved your Christmas story. Your magic.

  3. PM – thanks for the compliment. I’m really glad you enjoyed the article.

    Flimsy – this mode of posting a letter to Santa was common in Britain until central heating became popular. Then, fireplaces began to disappear. Fortunately, this was not a problem for me, as my belief in Father Christmas had been killed off by the time we got c/h.

    PoP – I believe the magic of Christmas is in energized Love coupled with our heightened ability to be ‘in the moment’ at Christmastime. I believe energized Love to be the essence of all magic.
    Yes, I worked for the RSPCA thirteen years. That was long enough to cope with the immense amount of animal suffering at the hands of my own species. I suppose my philosophy is slightly Buddhist. I hate to see any creature suffering. I don’t have pets in America as we travel too much, but I am particularly fond of cats. My last was called Molly. You can read about her HERE.

  4. Thank you for showing me Molly’s story. I cried when I read it, but I always cry when I experience animal stories. What a wonderful thing you did saving her and what a wonderful thing she did saving her little old dog buddy. Here’s to Molly and here’s to people like you. Cheers!

    I spent some years working as asst dir of a wildlife hospital caring for orphaned and injured wildlife. Far too many of those creatures suffered thier injuries as a result of careless or cruel human beings.

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