Monday, October 18, 2010

Dickens-Era London Brought Magically to Life

Compact Disc Review by Linda Goodman

Missing the Muffin Man, by Mary Jo Maichack $12.00 + $2.00 shipping and handling. CD cash/personal check sales from Mary Jo Maichack, Maichack Arts, 93 Homestead Avenue, Holyoke, Ma 01040, or Visit for a free listen and a 40% discount if more than one CD is purchased. Recommended for listeners of all ages.

Missing the Muffin Man, the latest CD from minstrel, storyteller Mary Jo Maichack, is a wonderfully engaging tale of a young girl in search of a treasured friend. Set in Charles Dickens’ London, it is the perfect companion piece to A Christmas Carol. Indeed, with this CD, Maichack, long admired for her considerable storytelling and singing talent, makes her mark as a writer of note. In the process, she has raised the bar for all those who aspire to enter the realm of telling tales.

The story’s protagonist is ten-year old Ginny Wright, who becomes distraught after going three weeks without seeing her beloved muffin man. After all, in his absence she is forced to spend afternoons with her stern governess, rather than have tea with her adored mother. How she longs to hear the ringing hand bell that announces the muffin man’s arrival! How she misses the special wink that is a code between them!

Ginny does what any curious child would do if given the opportunity: she takes her terrier Pike and sets out to find her friend. Her search leads her on an adventure that is both exciting and frightening. The streets of London come to life with costermongers (street vendors), beggars, flower stalls, and thieves. Maichak paints the scene so clearly that the listener can see the squalor and chaos; can hear the shouts and bells, so loud that conversation is impossible.

Ginny’s seemingly innocent escapade takes a dangerous turn when she has a run-in with a body snatcher. An orphaned boy who calls himself “Six” comes to her aid. Six proudly claims to be a thief. “Better thievin’ than beggin,’” he tells her. “At least thievin’ has some skill to it.” He advises Ginny, for her safety, to be entertaining. Ginny takes his advice and the result is her creation of the classic children’s song, The Muffin Man. While the origins of this song are not known, Maichack’s story certainly seems plausible.

No review of Maichack’s work would be complete without mention of the remarkable tool that is her voice. Using several English accents to perfection, she gives each of her characters a distinct voice. The listener always knows who is speaking. Her rhythm and timing are impeccable, and her singing is a delight.

Maichack’s CD cover portrait is a pastel painting entitled “Homage to Renoir,” by her husband Gregory John Maichack, a talented artist in his own right. The portrait is the perfect complement to the story. The inside cover has a nineteenth century muffin recipe that is sure to delight both culinaries and those who taste their wares.

Put on a pot of tea, warm an English muffin, and put this CD on to play. You will not be Missing the Muffin Man for long.

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