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Gus Thomson's Media Life appears Fridays in the Auburn Journal

Media Life:Voices of past, present make for Auburncentric Christmas

Gold miners, "It's a Wonderful Life" cast in rare recordings; Auburn-made CD sales simmering
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Classic Christmas tales from the Golden Age of Radio, voices from the area’s gold mining past, and a newly minted Auburn record ready for gifting under the tree, are some of the holiday offerings this Yule in Auburn. KAHI radio is trying something different this year, airing unedited radio broadcasts of three Christmas classics – “Miracle on 34th Street, “A Christmas Carol,” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s a rare chance to gather round the radio to hear Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed reprise their movie roles in “It’s a Wonderful Life” in a 1947 broadcast. The Lux Radio Theater broadcast is aired on KAHI with the original “Lux Toilet Soap” ads intact. Same goes for “A Christmas Carol” on Campbell Playhouse, sponsored by Campbell Soup and produced (and introduced) by the mellifluous Orson Welles. Lionel Barrymore gets the Scrooge role in a radio delight that was a traditional part of Christmas Day back in the 1930s and 1940s. “Miracle on 34th Street” reunites the full cast from the magical Christmas movie, starring Maureen O’Hara, Natalie Wood, John Payne and everybody’s favorite Santa, Edmund Gwenn. In another miracle, each of the radio plays is squeezed into an hour. The three shows are broadcast back-to-back starting at noon on Christmas Eve and 6 p.m. on Christmas Day. “Miracle” will be followed by “Christmas Carol,” and then “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The three will also be streamed over the internet at kahi.com on Christmas Eve but not on Christmas Day. KAHI 950 AM veteran Jim Naylor will be in the box from 6 a.m to noon at the Lincoln Way studios on Christmas Day to take requests at (530) 885-3565. “Snoopy’s Christmas” by The Royal Guardsmen, please. LOCAL VOCALS Hopefully one of those requests on KAHI will be for the locally produced “It’s Christmas Time,” a co-production of Auburn composer-writer-producer Eric Chun and Fairfield’s Claytoven Richardson (background vocals on a string of hits, including Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”). It deserves the radio airplay. Chun and Richardson recorded the CD single at Chun’s Creative Music Services studio in Auburn. With the Auburn Boys & Girls Club onboard as the local charity of choice, the soulful holiday singles are now packaged and on sale at a number of local locations. The non-profit will be getting $4 out of each sale. The CD, which includes one track with vocals, and another sing-a-long instrumental version go for $5. Chun has gone on a mini-tour to promote the song, appearing at the Downtown Country Christmas, Courthouse Coffee and the Club Car. They’re instant sellers wherever he goes, he said. The Boys & Girls Club in Auburn is offering them, as are a number of other locations, including the recently added Kiwanis See’s Candy Store, in the Rock Creek Plaza near Kmart. Close to 100 had been sold by mid-week, Chun said. VOICES OF THE PAST And, finally, Christmas wouldn’t be a Christmas in these parts without a chance to listen to a 1946 radio broadcast of the Grass Valley Cornish Carol Choir. David Breninger, better known in Auburn as general manager of the Placer County Water Agency, has provided a replay of the 62-year-old broadcast for several years now on KVMR-FM’s Old Radio Theater. This year’s airing will take place at 9 p.m. Dec. 28 on 89.5-FM and streamed live on kvmr.org. Listeners will hear the actual voices of gold miners and their sons, when they sang live to the nation on Christmas morning over the National Broadcasting Company radio network. Their 50 voices – all-male and in five-part harmony – were patched into the network through a telephone hookup that originated from the stage of Grass Valley’s Del Oro Theater. The recording is the only surviving example of a time when the choir appeared several times during the golden days of radio. Breninger and his wife, Linda recently celebrated their 23rd year on the air as volunteers sharing their time and vast collection of original radio programs with listeners. The choir itself goes back a lot further. It started in the early 1870s, composed of Cornish gold miners who sang as they ended their workdays walking to their homes. The songs were Christmas carols sung in the Cornwall area of England for centuries. While the Del Oro Theater remains one of the outstanding examples of early 20th century, small-town movie houses, the Cornish Choir is no more. With little mining activity still taking place, their numbers dwindled. Their last concert before disbanding was in 1968. Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.