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Black Tie International:
John Wallowitch's Unique Christmas Eve Tradition

 

 

John Wallowitch’s Unique Christmas Eve Tradition
Lives On In New York City

Photos & Story by: Fiddle Viracola


 

Carolers outside  The Luxembourg House. Former Irving Berlin home

Carolers Outside The Luxembourg House. Former Irving Berlin Home
 

Jennifer Sherwood, Executive Director of the Turtle Bay Music School

Jennifer Sherwood, Executive Director of the Turtle Bay Music School

 
Bobbie and Henry Shaffner from Philadelphia

Bobbie and Henry Shaffner from Philadelphia

 
Bill Brown, Pamela Osowski, Alix Cohen, David Larkin

Bill Brown, Pamela Osowski, Alix Cohen, David Larkin

 
Véronique and Mr. Jean Olinger Pauline and Haderen Olinger

Véronique and Mr.Jean Olinger, Counseiller Représentant Permanent Adjoint to Luxembourg Permanent Mission to the United Nations, Pauline and Haderen Olinger

 
Singing Irving Berlin Inside

Singing Irving Berlin Inside

 
Bob Goldstein and Albert Marcus

Bobb Goldsteinn and Albert Marcus

 
Fiddle Viracola, Mr. Jean Olinger and Pauline Olinger

Fiddle Viracola, Mr. Jean Olinger and Pauline Olinger

 

 

 

Thank you!!!

Hon. Mr. Francois Knaff, Consul General of Luxembourg;

 

Véronique, Pauline, Haderen and Mr. Jean Olinger, Conseiller Représentant Permanent Adjoint at the Luxembourg Permanent Mission to the United Nations.

 

Ms. Laurence Pierron: executive assistant Luxembourg Board of Economic Development

 

Jennifer Sherwood: executive director Turtle Bay Music School.

 

You keep John Wallowitch’s unique Christmas Eve tradition alive in New York City. Your wide open-door generosity continues its welcome.

 

32 years ago, composer, cabaret star, pianist, TV cable star John Wallowitch began a tradition on Christmas Eve by singing Always and White Christmas, a capella, in front of Irving Berlin’s (one of the greatest songwriters in history) Beekman Place home of 42 years. John’s event grew people each year as he extended invitations to friends. Rehearsing in his apartment preceded the songfest with food and merriment.

 

In 1983 when Irving Berlin was 95 the miraculous happened. “For the first time” John said, “The lights were on in Irving Berlin’s home.” It was 6:00 pm and 9 degrees above zero,  The Irving Berlin Sing included Bertrum Ross (Martha Graham’s dance partner for 25 years and John’s partner) Broadway performers Steve Elmore, Audrey Johnson, etc. and me.

 

Author Henry Miller’s wisdom was part of that mosaic.
“I’ve done everything in life I ever wanted to do but meet Herman Hesse.”  Henry said. “I walked back and forth past his house and didn’t have the courage to ring the doorbell.  Years later, I met his son who said ‘My father would have adored you.’ That’s my only regret in life. Don’t ever forget to ring the doorbell Fiddle and encourage others to do so!!”

 

“John, ring the doorbell. Tell the maid what you are going to do.” I blurted.’ “No!” Everyone barked. “We’ll disturb him.” “He’s old.” On they went dueling with “Ring the doorbell.” Finally, John rang; told the maid, then conducted: I’ll be loving you Always…I’m dreaming of a White Christmas… 

 

Suddenly, drapes were drawn. Cops pulled up. Door bolting was heard with “My God, we’ll be arrested.” John led more Berlin gems: We’re having a Heat WaveThere’s no business like Show Business…Easter Parade…  God Bless America.

 

As we crossed the street leaving, the maid opened the door calling: “Come in! Irving Berlin would like to meet you!” John, who could cry at an adjective in any sentence, was ecstatic. His hero wrote 1500 songs, 19 Broadway shows and 18 movies and John made the words love and respect for the great American composer, active verbs.

 

Into the kitchen, we were escorted.  There stood Irving Berlin in a beige cashmere wrapper with a black I.B. on its pocket, over his pajamas. “This is the greatest Christmas present I ever got.”

 

Phil Roura from The Daily News wrote a Twas the night before Christmas, Clement Moore’s type poem about it, using our names and ending with Berlin/ Santa Clause, And to all a good night. From that, John became the known authority on Irving Berlin. Work appeared. The New York Telephone Company called me and we performed a tribute to Irving Berlin, for their Summer Arts Festival etc. The miraculous happens when it comes from the right center.

 

After the death of Berlin at 101 in 1989 his townhouse became The Luxembourg Consulate. The Consulate General opened its doors to John’s tradition, and we sing in the room Call Me Madam was composed in for Ethel Merman; see Berlin family photos by Edward Steichen on the wall; view the lit Cul de Sac Christmas tree from Berlin’s favored curved window, as memory spins Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Rosemary Clooney, singing the songs, we sing.

 

John died in 2007. Anna Mae Wallowitch, John’s beloved sister wanted the tradition to continue. It does in a different format: Bobb Goldsteinn, The Roger Edens Foundation and Albert Marcus at the helm.

 

Time circles. Let’s not forget that John Wallowich was the first domino. He made us laugh and sing from his heart as big as a melon.   It’s his footprint in the snow with Irving Berlin’s walking us through musical history linked to the generosity of Luxembourg House.

 

Recently, I over heard a young preppy tell her date, texting at a movie, “Some immigrant guy named, like Irv, wrote a Christmas song for Whites."

(White Christmas?)

 

God Bless America!!!!

 

 

 

                                         

To list an upcoming event please contact: 
joyce@blacktiemagazine.com

 
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