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'Santa Almost Missed Our Town'


The lyricist and the musician share a partnership formed in musical heaven. Tom Christopher, who lives in Butlerville, writes the lyrics, while David Fitzpatrick of Bay Roberts writes the music.

"Lyrics are not classified as a song until there is music and vocals added," Tom says. After he commits the words to print, "David takes it from there," putting the music and vocals to the words. "It is a collaboration."

Tom writes about real-life experiences because he wants to "touch base with the common person." His lyrics revolve around such perennial topics as the fishery, military, family and relationships. He even addresses social issues, like drinking and driving.

A few years ago, Tom wrote a set of lyrics with a decidedly Christmas theme, "Santa Almost Missed Our Town." It was later included on their Christmas album.

"With people having 'Santa Stops Here' signs as part of their yard display," Tom explains, "I thought you could do the same thing with solar lights, and it could be seen from above."

Those solar lights in the snow gave him an idea and, he adds, "it just went from there."

His idea, he adds, "was to show that even in a power outage (without a generator) there was still a way for Santa to find your house."

So, with David's help, in 2011 Tom's lyrics became "a fun song for children."

Earlier this year, the duo released "Santa Almost Missed Our Town" as a children's book, something they had been thinking about doing for quite some time.

"It's a very exciting time for us," Tom says.

The storyline goes like this: It's a cold and stormy night in Newfoundland, when the power lines go down, leaving a town in darkness one Christmas Eve. Without any lights to guide his way, how will Santa find the houses to deliver gifts to all the girls and boys?

Heather Reilly, an author and music teacher living in Dildo, superbly illustrates the book.

I wondered about the connection between the lyricist, the musician and the illustrator.

"Well," Tom says, "that was a very happy coincidence."

He and his fiancee, Darlene Butler, saw Heather at a craft fair and noticed her books. They talked about the idea of a book based on Tom's song.

"She was very enthusiastic and brought a lot of energy and creativity to the project," Tom says.

The story's musical cadence, along with Heather's brilliant and colourful images of the holiday season and memories past, makes for a winning combination.

This is Tom's first book and, he says, "seeing it ... is very exciting. It is a very special feeling once you get the finished product, knowing that your name is attached to it and hoping it brings a smile to a little boy or girl."

Tom is forever and a day dreaming up ideas for new lyrics.

He says that those ideas "come from everywhere and everything. I could hear somebody say something, see a road sign. If one or two words stay with me, I will build around it. It's similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle; the only difference is you are using words. They all have to go in a certain place and fit together right."

"Santa Almost Missed Our Town" begins this way: "It was just a year ago,/We had an awful fright,/It seemed that Santa might not/Find our town on Christmas night."

The remainder of the book is an explanation of how the predicament was eventually resolved.

Both Tom and David firmly believe that children help to keep the magic of Christmas alive. In their book, they are doing their part to tell the story of a group of kids who are downhearted, "realizing their worst fear."

The response to the book has been fantastic. "We are really getting lots of positive feedback," Tom says. "People seem to love it."

The release of their first book is but a foretaste of what is yet to come from Tom and David. The lifelong friends have talked with Heather about another project for the New Year.

"We are all very excited," Tom says, "at the thought of another book."

The topic of their next book is wrapped up like a Christmas present.

Burton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His column appears in The Compass every week. He can be reached at burtonj@nfld.net.

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