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Dickens’ A Christmas Carol read by celebrities in Tottenham

December 18, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Wendy Gabrek

On Sunday, December 8, Tottenham’s Anglican Church of the Evangelists set the stage for the annual “Celebrity Dramatic Reading of Dickens’ Christmas Carol” with musical interludes.

The tradition of reading the CBC public readings script continues to contribute to the historical tradition of public readings of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, and to build community by creating an experience to gather before a powerful tale of moral and personal transformation. And, as producer Cael Cohen says, “because New Tecumseth loves a good ghost story.”

“Our dramatic reading in Tottenham is part of a history of doing public readings of Dickens’ Christmas Carol that Dickens’ himself began,” Cohen told The Times. “Dickens started the story in October 1843 and wrote obsessively for six weeks. As Dickens wrote, he wept, laughed, and wandered around London at night ‘when all sober folks had gone to bed’. He finished the novella at the end of November so it could be published in time for Christmas. A Christmas Carol hit the shops on December 17, 1843, and sold out in three days. Dickens was the first famous writer to give public readings of his work—and his first reading was A Christmas Carol. The reading took place in front of a crowd of 2,000 people in the town hall of Birmingham, England, 10 years after the book was published.”

Here in New Tecumseth, the reading holds a social importance. 

“A Christmas Carol is not merely a spooky, exciting ghost story, it is also an important tale of personal transformation about the importance of being a good person,” said Cohen. “This message of transformation is important for New Tecumseth as a community because our towns are in social transition with rapid growth in our population, job layoffs and unemployment, food prices going up, [and a] rise in homeless population. As a community, we do not want to be like Scrooge, and we are not. The proceeds from this event are going to Matthews House and Out of the Cold. The community coming together to publicly read and listen to a reading about being better people, about caring for each other, is important. ‘God bless us every one!’ said Tiny Tim, the last of all Dickens.”

Russell Kelly, owner of Tottenhouse Studios painted the Scrooge and Marley sign. 

“It looks it is made of wood, but is actually a cardboard pallette,” said Cohen.

Celebrity reader, Brian Good, founding member of The Good Brothers, a Canadian country, bluegrass and folk music group originating from Richmond Hill, specifically asked if he could read Stave 1 because that is his favourite part of A Christmas Carol. In 2004 The Goods were inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, and received two nominations for Country Group and Roots Artist of the year at the Canadian Country Music Awards. In 2015 they received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Toronto Musicians Association and in 2016 were inducted into the North American Country Music Association International Hall of Fame in Tennessee. 

A Christmas Carol is produced and organized by Cael Cohen – who also gives an annual free Guided Historic Ghost Walk in Tottenham during Halloween Week and the last Sunday of Tottenham’s Community Week. 

Cohen is a professor at York University and helping build community is one of her core values. 

“I am an active member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 329 Tottenham, the Tottenham Lion’s Club, the Tecumseth West Gwillimbury Historical Society, Tottenham Community Week, and a Board Member of Alliston’s Next Step Literacy Council,” Coen told The Times. “My hobbies are storytelling, painting and writing.”

Cael is also an accomplished oral storyteller who contributes to the community by giving an annual Free Guided Historic Ghost Walks through Tottenham during Halloween week and the last Sunday of Community Week. She founded the Tottenham Writers’ Group in January 2018 and is currently writing two books: a young adult fiction novel and The Ghosts of Tottenham. She is a member of the Church of the Evangelist’s Congregation, and is a trained oral storyteller, who apprenticed under master storytellers in Toronto, and her favourite story to tell is ghost stories and strange tales of wonder.

The last public dramatic reading of Dickens’ Christmas Carol in Tottenham was in 2015 at the Rich Hill United Church. 

Resurrected in 2019 by Cohen, the reading was her idea, and she worked to organized the event – and began planning at the end of July. Cohen booked the readers, church, designed the tickets, did advertising and got sponsors.

Laurie Laing was a celebrity reader at the last event in 2015 and jumped at the chance to participate once again.

Laing has worked as a tour guide, radio DJ, horse show announcer, newscaster and teacher. Recently she has rekindled a love of acting in “South of Hope” with Blackhorse Theatre, and in the York Region Festival of One-Act Plays in Newmarket last month. Laurie says she is thrilled to again be part of A Christmas Carol with the Church of the Evangelists. 

Phil Apperly, born in the UK, is a retired Mechanical Engineer who worked in the aerospace industry on space and terrestrial robotics. During his time at school, he played Strength in “Everyman”, and Cap’n Bones in “Treasure Island”. He later acted with amateur Church groups in “Come Back Peter” and “Haul for the Shore.” He has taught math and physics at Humber College and been active with local churches as well as with the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute and the (British-based) Institution of Mechanical Engineers.  

Shira Harrison-McIntyre, Ward 7 Councillor, has lived, worked and volunteered in New Tecumseth for the past twelve years. 

“She has contributed to the betterment of her community through her work as the Administrator and fundraiser at Next Step: Literacy Council of South Simcoe, as Vice-Chair of the New Tecumseth Committee of Adjustment, Vice-Chair of the New Tecumseth Environmental Task Force and member of the New Tecumseth Heritage Advisory Committee,” said Cohen.

Kevin Frankish is a Canadian television presenter and media personality. 

“He co-hosted Breakfast Television Toronto on CityTV Toronto from 1991 to 2018. He continues to work for CityTV Toronto on documentaries and special projects and is a professor at Seneca College at York University for Journalism. He runs Kevin Frankish Media, a media content and creation company and has a YouTube channel,” said Cohen. “In 2015, he was nominated for Canadian Screen Award for Best News Anchor, Local.”

Britta Badour is a spoken word poet, teaching artist, and mentor. Originally from Kingston, Britta currently resides in Toronto.  

“Since 2013, Britta has performed her poetry across North America in cities such as Vancouver, New York, Detroit, Montreal, and New Orleans to name a few,” said Cohen. “She’s appeared on three TEDx Talks, opened for HBO’s Def Poetry poets Shihan and Carlos Andrés Gómez, and has returned several times to the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts’ stage for Dwayne Morgan’s production, When Sisters Speak. In April 2017, Britta was one of 15 spoken word artists-in-residence at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.”

Several musical performers also contributed to the reading.

“Singer and songwriter Sean Bourke is an exceptionally skilled musician who has performed in many venue’s large and small,” said Cohen. “He’s shared the stage with such big name acts as The Good Brothers, Blue Rodeo, Teenage Head. With one album in hand and another in the works, Sean is audience pleasing with both originals and covers. Brian Good describes Sean as: ‘One of Canada’s best kept secrets’.”

Lorne Derraugh also takes great satisfaction in his position of choir leader and organist at Church of the Evangelists. 

“Lorne’s passion for piano and music led him from the pit as accompanist and viola player, on to the stage in numerous lead operatic, musical roles and back to the pit, having conducted many musicals around the GTA,” explained Cohen. “Lorne was the personnel and production manager of the Mississauga Symphony for 20 years, and lead baritone with the Mississauga City Centre Opera for a number of years. Lorne is a past vice president of the Gibson Centre for the Arts in Alliston.”

Keeping it all in the family, Annette Derraugh also performed through song.

“Annette has sung her heart out since she was a little girl, when her father gave her a dime to sing for company – her first professional engagement,” said Cohen. “She has had various lead roles in community musical theatre productions for many years. Annette has been a proud member in the soprano section of The New Tecumseth Singers for twelve years and enjoys singing in close harmony with the ladies of Sugartones, a women’s barbershop chorus in New Tecumseth performing throughout our community all year. In between all this singing, she managed to take care of the advertising end of The New Tecumseth Times for eighteen years.”

Cohen would like to acknowledge the following people for their contributions to the event:

• Tottenham’s Anglican Church of the Evangelist’s for hosting the event in their church.

• Andrea Romanick, who did the decorating, set, program and poster design, creation and implementation. 

• Liana Maddocks, emcee

• Jenivieve De Vries, who helped with programs, planning, costumes, all of the intermission treats and sweets and much more

• The sponsors: Feehely and Gastaldi, law firm; Evans, DeVries, Higgins, Bradford Law Firm, and Ken Klempner, Tottenham resident, and A Taste of Freedom Country Inn and Restaurant.



         


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