Many families have Christmas traditions that are passed from one generation to the next. From deep within the WYSO vault comes one family’s holiday ritual to share with our listeners once again: a reading of Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”
Dylan Thomas was a colorful and influential writer of the mid 20th century, and 2014 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Welsh poet’s birth. Archives Fellow Jocelyn Robinson brings us a look at one of his most famous literary works.
There's a 1952 recording of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas reading “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” It’s not from our archives; it was the first recording by newly formed Caedmon Records of New York. Dylan Thomas was a hard living but brilliant writer who died a year later at the young age of 39. But an annual reading of his beautifully evocative prose poem is a holiday ritual for many people.
Years ago, the Dallas family of Yellow Springs would gather with dear friends at the holidays. Tony Dallas recalls this tradition from his childhood.
"Every Christmas Eve we would get together and one of the things my father would read was “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” So this is very, very familiar to me. He’d also read it at the Unitarian Fellowship. So it’s one of those things that I almost know it by heart."
Tony’s father Meredith Dallas, or Dal, as he was known, was the head of the Antioch College Theatre Department for many years. In 1976, a few years before he retired, WYSO recorded him reading “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” for a holiday broadcast.
Tony, an educator, actor, and director like his father, compares the two recordings.
"Thomas reads like a poet reading his words, it’s the language which does the work. And I think my father reads like an actor, and it’s finding the story in words that becomes the thing that pulls through."
So it’s with great pleasure we offer “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” to a new generation of listeners. But as is sometimes the case with old reel-to-reel recordings, the tape at the beginning of our old reel had deteriorated, making the first few minutes of the digitized copy somewhat un-listenable. We’ve revived the archival recording with a fitting remedy, though: Tony Dallas now reads the introductory passages for our holiday broadcast.
The holiday tradition continues.
Major funding for Rediscovered Radio is provided by the Ohio Humanities Council, and the Greene County Public Library.