Monday, December 26, 2011


Lee waiting to add his part to 'Still Simple Gifts' at Bistro.
Today is the second day of Christmas, and it's been a pleasant holiday so far. The season pretty much started on Sunday, December 4, when Market Square Presbyterian Church held its annual Bistro, where exotic soups and breads were served at noon (and again at 5:00 pm.) to the accompaniment of Still Simple Gifts, a folk music group of talented musicians. My choir partner Lee plays a number of instruments with the group. You can hear him and the other players over the din of diners enjoying the meal. The group played two numbers while I recorded them. Excuse my poor video editing!

In Wednesday, December 7, the Historical Society of Dauphin County sponsored "Deck the Halls," a major fundraising event. And each year, a prominent person in our area is honored for contributions to the community. This year's honoree was Benjamin Olewine, III, whose family has lived in Harrisburg since the 18th century. The Olewines have given generously to educational and cultural organizations for much of that time.

I am on the board of directors at the society, and my job was to do the publicity for the event. It was well attended and offered hors d'Ĺ“uvres and drinks, as well as the John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion dressed to the nines for the holidays.

We call it "the premier holiday event in the region," and pretty much anyone who is anyone is there. Plenty of us nobodies there, too.

My brother-in-law Jack volunteered to play the historic Steinway piano, and he filled the house with holiday music as only he can. Jack can play any song he has ever heard. He turns them all into great-sounding arrangements and was much appreciated by the party-goers.

Jack at the Mansion's historic Steinway.

My sister Rachel was there, too, and Susanne, as well. Rachel met for the first time since high school the guy who took her to the junior prom! He was Benjamin Olewine, IV, son of this year's honoree. I can still recall young Ben in our house on Sixth Street, posing with Rachel against the door from the living room to the dining room, the traditional "portrait location" and the only time the door was ever closed.

Rachel volunteered to wrap nearly 200 small books of vintage Harrisburg photos as holiday gifts for those in attendance at "Deck the Halls," and everyone was exciting as they retrieved their gift on their way out the door. Thanks again, Rachel.
Rachel and Ben Olewine in the Mansion's library.
Here I am with fellow board member Alyce S.

Rachel and I pose in the Victorian parlor.
On December 11, the Alleluia Choir of our church sang an Advent song for the 11:00 a.m. service. I am the "congregational partner" of one of the boys in the choir and have been enjoying keeping in touch with him, encouraging him in his choir participation, and generally letting him know that we adults appreciate what the kids do. I gave him a harmonica for Christmas, since he seems to like learning how to play different instruments.

My feet had not yet recovered from "Deck the Halls" before it was "Second Sunday at the Mansion," also on December 11. I was able to get the Mansion included into the annual Harrisburg House Tour sponsored by the Historic Harrisburg Association, and we expected a small flow of visitors throughout the afternoon. What we got was 400 people, most of whom had never seen the house before, and we board members who were serving as docents stood for another three and a half hours pointing out the features of the mansion and its contents.
Kelley, right, a board member, speaks with guests.
On December 17, I went to the church to help with placing poinsettias in the worship space. David and Wil, two of the men present, handled the task of suspending a giant Moravian star over the pulpit. It's hung the rest of the year in a high-ceilinged room on the church's fourth level and has to be taken down, carried through a double doorway (after one of the doors is removed, of course), out into the street and around the corner to squeeze through the front entrance. Then the long march up the aisle and into place. The star makes a beautiful effect, especially when it's lights out on Christmas Eve.

Big, isn't it?
David lugs the star to the front of the church.

I was inspired to return home and put up our own Moravian star on the front porch. It was a little easier to handle than the one at the church. But I love the story of the star, its connection to the Moravian Church and to Old Salem, where we had just visited, and the fact that we bought it an the estate sale of one of Susanne's friends' mother, who was a delightful lady and always fun to visit in Bridgeville, Washington County.

Our star hangs on a tension rod on the front porch.

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