Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Gibson Family Christmas Show in Ellenburg Depot, NY - December 12, 2015
Each December for the past few years, Eric and Leigh Gibson have hosted a Gibson Family Christmas show at Northern Adirondack Central School in Ellenburg Depot, their home town in the northernmost reaches of New York State, almost to the Canadian border. On Saturday morning we headed north through Vermont and across Lake Champlain at Rouses Point. Looking right, we could see the border, which, until after 9/11 we could cross, and re-cross with only our driver's licenses. Now, what was once the world's longest un-guarded international border needs a passport to cross. We headed west on U.S. route 11 through marginal farmland and small, quiet villages. Our GPS took us onto Davison Road and in a few miles we crossed Canaan's Road, reminding us of Canaan's Hill where Sam Smith, a Civil War veteran and the central character in one of Leigh's songs, is buried. A few more miles took us to the small, comfortable home of Shannon Gibson, Leigh and Eric's mother. We were welcomed with some of her famous pie and a hot cup of coffee. We dropped our passenger and headed to our motel.
Northern Adirondack Central School
The Gibson Family Christmas Show is not a Gibson Brothers Band show. Northern Adirondack Central School is only a few miles from the dairy farm the boys grew up on, the high school they graduated from. It's just down the road from Dick's Country Store, Gun City & Music Oasis where they bought their first instruments. Northern Adirondack Central School has a K-12 population of 812, in a thinly populated rural area. Its auditorium seats 588 people. The show was sold out way before this performance where the district's most heralded graduates never forget who they are or where they came from. This show was for the benefit of Future Farmers of America (FFA), one of the school's clubs. Their sister, Erin Gibson LaClair teaches second grade there. Half the students here come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. This year there are 62 students in the senior class. Some people at the concert came from away, but, for the most part, this is a home town crowd who come out to spend an evening with old friends whose success they revel in.
Leigh Gibson - Song for a Winter Evening - Video
Leigh and Eric have achieved acclaim with their award winning band, which has moved from performing in church, where they began, to playing before thousands of people in major venues and headlining at bluegrass festivals across the country and on a few trips to Europe. They currently record for Rounder Records, the gold standard for bluegrass and roots recording. But this isn't a Gibson Brothers show, it's a family gathering. Son Kelley, who's a budding singer/songwriter has begun attending college at his father and uncle's alma mater, SUNY at Plattburgh, thirty miles down the road, played and sang on several songs.
Mike Barber has played for the Gibson Brothers since they turned professional twenty-two years ago. His bass play is superb, driving the band with unpretentious yet challenging drive. He lives a little south of Ellenburg in a place called Jericho that isn't even on the map. Near as we can tell, it's near Altona. When not on tour, he puts a small canoe on the roof of his car and heads into the woods for some trout fishing.
Julie Hogan and Tom Venne, brother and sister whose band Beartracks is popular at festivals as well as a variety of music venues in upstate New York and nearby New England. They're a solid country and bluegrass band. They also play in a classic country band called the Clem Hawkins Revival band which gathers occasionally when Eric Gibson is available to play telecaster with them. They're versatile and enjoyable. Tom and Julie are also Mike Barber's first cousins. Julie's an elementary school guidance counselor, while the recently married Tom is retired from the U.S Border Patrol.
The Gibson Family Christmas Show - Rockin' Around the Christmass Tree - Video
Sam Zucchini serves as percussionist when Leigh and Eric perform in other settings than as the Gibson Brothers Band. We've seen him for a couple of years playing on the Family Christmas Show and appreciated his tasteful play and seamless blend with them. Ordinarily, he's a member of the highly acclaimed and very interesting Zucchini Brothers, who specialize in entertaining and educational materials aimed primarily at children. The Zucchini Brothers have a radio show heard around the world, as well as a program that they take to schools, libraries, and other venues. Check out some of their wonderful videos on YouTube. Also, pay attention to his work in the videos on this post. You won't be sorry.
Erin Gibson LaClair, the younger sister of the Gibson brothers, has survived the ordeal with good graces far exceeding any reasonable semblance of whatever might be called for from a younger sister. Many of you have seen what Eric and Leigh good naturedly heap on each other. Her ordeal has probably turned her into one of the premier second grade teachers in America. She's also possessed of a superb singing voice that blends sublimely with her elder brothers. Their rendition of The Lighthouse is one of the most played songs on my YouTube channel, having been played well over 20,000 times. Here she sings "The Little Drummer Boy" and you'll enjoy the interactions and her spirited response.
Erin Gibson LaClair
Photo by Amy Lee
Gibson Family Christmas Show - The Little Drummer Boy - Video
The Gibson brothers wear their fame lightly, yet always feel responsible for keeping any show they're associated with at a high level. As Saturday's show drew to a close, the merch table was crowded with old friends, each wanting so share a memory with "the boys" or to just be near old friends for a few moments. The whole evening was a great success, so much so that there's talk of doing two nights next year.
FFA Serving Snacks During Intermission
At the Merch Table
In the Hallway