03 December 2007

King Island Christmas

"We'll tell you a story, a Christmas story.
It's our Christmas present to you.
We've wrapped it in music, instead of paper and we're here to sing it through.
It's called King Island Christmas and every word is true.
It's a story of people who stick together and what those people can do."

I've just pulled out my x-mas music. I wonder about all of you living in more urban climes if you aren't already tired of the seasonal jingles which get piped into every human occupied place? I know I would be, but the only music I hear is what I play. And one of my absolute favorites has never been piped into any room and is actually the perfect music to listen to when stressed and uncertain about the future (can you imagine that I might be that?). In particular, the song about "the gift of trouble" puts me to tears.

When I first moved to Alaska I was living in Fairbanks and around Christmas I was looking for some sort of holiday theater. There was no Nutcracker, no A Christmas Carol. Instead there was King Island Christmas, a musical inspired by a true story about an Inupiat Eskimo village in the Bering Sea of Alaska. The North Star freighter, carrying the village priest & the villager's winter food supplies, is anchored in the Bering Sea on Christmas eve, on it’s last arctic voyage before the winter ice closes in around King Island (also known as Ukivok - red dot on Alaska map below for approximate location). The waves are too high for the villagers to go out and fetch the priest in their walrus skin boats; without him, there will be no Christmas celebration and they will not have their winter supplies. In a communal effort, the villagers triumphantly carry their oomiak (walrus skinned boat - the original kayaks) over a mountain to the calmer waters of the lee, and bring the priest & supplies ashore. King Island Christmas is a heartwarming story about the power of community and the ability of the human spirit to overcome adversity.

I was captivated. It is an amazing story and the songs it sings! The music and this story to me embody so much of what I feel the holidays are originally about, about good food and company, about community and pulling together to get through the long days, of passing knowledge and traditions between the generations, of sharing your love for one another, of looking for the beauty in your environment, and being thankful for what you have, of overcoming things together. The things that sometimes seem shoved aside as we rush around buying things we don't need.

King Island Christmas has become one of my cherished holiday traditions. I love the songs. I love the spirit of community. One year I found CD's of the musical and bought copies for many of my friends and family members. The next year I wanted to get it for a few people I had left out and was sad to find it had been discontinued. Ever since then it has been my mission to share King Island Christmas with someone each holiday season. To my delight both the book, with lovely illustrations by Alaskan artists, and the CD are now more widely available. If I could I would give each and every one of you a copy. So if you are looking for new music check it out!


  1. golly... a new christmas show? that is charles dickens?

    love it.

  2. um... that was supposed to be "isN'T charles dickens"

  3. maypole, yes! And I thought of you in particular when I wrote this because I can picture you singing in the cast (I just found that the musical score is also available online).

  4. I am so glad to know about this music. See, I'm a holiday curmudgeon, in general...but you've gotten my attention. And I loved your list of what this season really can mean.

  5. Because I have vowed to always tell the truth in my blogging life, I admit to being a scrooge. Each year, my husband and I have a mexican standoff to see who caves first and insists we put up a Christmas tree.

    I like the idea of this community holiday you speak of. Though I'm not a likely culprit to play holiday carols, I appreciate and admire community compassion....It makes me warm and fuzzy.

  6. It's lovely to hear a Christmas story that isn't commercialised. Here in Australia Christmas is usually hot and tiring, I find.
    One of my less successful outings was when I arranged with friends to picnic along the river and it was 42 in the shade (about 108 Fahrenheit, or thereabouts) and a fierce wind battered us until we gave up and went home.
    Okay, I think I've revealed that I also am pretty much not fond of Christmas. Yet there's so much about it that is loving and sharing...

  7. jocelyn, thanks!

    ms chica, community is so important. And just so you know, this doesn't even sound like holiday carols.

    parlance, good for you for arranging that picnic even if the elements were against you. I'm not much for comercial anythings but especially holidays. I think it & the pressure it brings with it brings out the Scrooge in all of us.

  8. hello wayfarer. Deborah Brevoort here--I'm the author of King Island Christmas. Thanks for your nice comments! I just wanted you to know that the CD has not been discontinued. You can get it on amazon.com... and on kingislandchristmas.com. I'm glad you enjoy the Cd. My best to you!--Deborah

  9. Hello Deborah! I'm honored that you came to my site and commented. I love King Island Christmas. Can you still get the book too? I like to send the book and the CD to people together especially for people who haven't seen the musical and aren't familiar with Alaska. Besides, I love Barbara Lavalle's drawings - they're so evocative of the spirit.


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