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Thursday, November 21, 2019 - 2:08pm

An Evening of Holiday Stories and Songs to Benefit the Writers' Fed

One of my favorite things about the holidays is hearing the late Alan Maitland’s reading of the story “The Shepherd.” For the past 40 years, CBC Radio has broadcast the classic recording about an RAF pilot flying home for the holidays.

I’ve only heard the story in the car when we’ve been driving, like the pilot, on the way home for Christmas. It’s dark and headlights from passing cars sweep through the vehicle. Kids are asleep in the backseat and all is quiet except for Fireside Al’s voice, hushed and urgent. It feels like you’re in the cockpit alongside the pilot as he flies blindly through the night lost in the fog and low on fuel, hoping for a miracle.

I thought of “The Shepherd” when reading “Lighting Up the Dark” by Lisa Moore. Included in her collection Something for Everyone, it’s a tale that stirs the imagination—gritty and realistic, yet magical at the same time. In the story, a young man’s life is about to go totally off the rails until someone – yay for Santa! – intervenes.

It’s the kind of story that begs to be heard out loud – and that’s exactly what’s going to happen during Gather ‘Round: An Evening of Holiday Stories and Songs with emcee Kayla Hounsell. An excerpt from Moore’s story will be read by Costas Halavrezos, former host of CBC Radio’s Maritime Noon and now host of Nimbus Publishing’s podcast, Book Me!

You’ll also hear “Wonder About Parents”—another holiday road trip story—this one by Alexander MacLeod from his debut collection of short stories Light Lifting. Earlier this year, MacLeod, a professor at Saint Mary’s University, won the prestigious O. Henry Prize short fiction prize. 

The third reading will be an excerpt from Mi’kmaw writer Amanda Peters’ novella The Reindeer Herder. Peters’ story presents a re-imagining of Mrs. Claus, not as a kindly bespectacled sidekick to Santa, but as a courageous young woman born into a society of traditional reindeer herders who saves the life of a lost trader by the name of Nicholas. This reading will be performed by Stephanie Domet, a novelist, co-chair of the Afterwords Literary Festival, and Peters’ former mentor in the WFNS’s Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program.

Wrapping up the evening will be the Halifax Gay Men’s Chorus, performing a few inspirational yuletide songs including one or two that we can all sing along to. (The chorus has their own concert coming up; there are two performances for Our Gay Apparel coming up on Dec. 12 and Dec. 14, also at St. Andrew’s United Church.)

Gather 'Round takes place Thursday, Dec. 5, 7 pm, at St. Andrew's United Church, Robie Street at Coburg Road, Halifax. Tickets for Gather ‘Round are just $15 and $20 and are available through Ticket Halifax or at the door. Thanks to the support of Gordon Stirrett Wealth Management and BoyneClarke Lawyers, all proceeds from Gather ‘Round will support WFNS programs such as the Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program.

- Marilyn Smulders, Executive Director