Starting in 1987, there’s been one song that signifies it’s the holiday season in the Pine Tree State: “The Maine Christmas Song,” a heartwarming little ditty written by songwriter Con Fullam, and sung by country and western singer Malinda Liberty. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the song, Fullam has organized a special Christmas in Maine concert, to be televised and broadcast on both WLBZ and MPBN this weekend and throughout the month; it premieres at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 on WLBZ.
“I think the song hits a chord with what Maine is all about. This is a state of community, and it always has been,” said Fullam, who continues to write and perform throughout the state. “I grew up in Sidney, and my father died when I was very young, leaving my mom and three kids… within three days the bank forgave our mortgage and there were constantly people there making sure we were OK. That’s stayed with me my whole life. Those memories really inspired the whole song.”
Fullam wrote the song barely a week before Christmas in 1987, at the behest of former WLBZ producer Bob Elliott, who wanted a Christmas song for the state of Maine. Over the years it has sold over 100,000 copies, and has raised lots of money for the Maine Credit Union League’s End Maine Hunger campaign. The last-minute nature of the request meant that Fullam had to pull out all the stops to write the song – and he’s convinced something like that can’t be repeated.
“That’s lightning in a bottle, and I’d never try to recapture something that was so spontaneous,” he said. “If I’d thought about it too much, I might not have written it. It was definitely a once in a lifetime thing.”
Fullam has organized a who’s who of Maine folk and classical musicians for the Christmas TV special, which was recorded at Husson University’s Gracie Theatre. Performers include Noel Paul Stookey, Jonathan Edwards, Paul Sullivan, Rich Charette, Laura Darrell, Melanie Dorice Saucier, Joan Kennedy, Dan Merrill, Lew Colby, John McVeigh, George Lopez, Maggie Coffin and the DaPonte String Quartet, as well as Fullam himself, performing with the Camden Hills Regional High School Chamber Singers. It’s hosted by MPBN’s Suzanne Nance and Maine humorist Tim Sample.
“You’re going to see the immense amount of talent that exists all over this state,” said Fullam. “We’ve got to be one of the richest states in the country for cultural depth. When you think about all the players, painters and poets that have lived in this state over the decades, it’s pretty amazing.”
After the premiere at 8 p.m. on Saturday on WLBZ, the special will be shown at 7 and 10 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 9 on MPBN, and then again at noon on Dec. 23, and 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Dec. 25, also on MPBN.