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A Christmas Carol in Four Staves by Charles Dickens
Fri, December 7, 2018 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
A solo performance of the historic 1868 public reading text with live musical underscore
Performed by Frank Babbitt
A Christmas Carol in Four Staves is a one-man performance of the historic 1868 public reading text that Dickens used while on his extensive public reading tours in Europe and America. After many public readings over several years, Dickens reduced the reading time to ninety minutes by dividing the story into four staves (or chapters), while retaining the episodes that worked best with his audiences. In an 1868 letter to his son Henry, Dickens wrote: “From ten years ago to last night, I have never read to an audience, but I have watched for an opportunity of striking out something better somewhere.”
Like many people, I have had a lifelong love for Dickens’ Carol in its many incarnations as film and theatre. When I discovered the reading text several years ago, I knew immediately that I wanted to find a way to share it with audiences. In studying the Carol to prepare for performances and recording, I was constantly drawn to the musical aspects in Dickens’s use of language. Each character or scene is beautifully crafted with a musician’s ear for phrasing and cadence. The reading text is a fascinating insight into the choices Dickens, the writer and editor, made for Dickens, the performer, in bringing his story to live audiences. I have added music where it is referred to in the story and also where I felt it could provide emotional support or atmospheric underscore.
— Frank Babbitt