Dixwell’s Stetson Branch Library is Lonnay Joyner’s home away from home — and, on Wednesday, it was her place to imagine herself as a reindeer.
A reindeer named Rudolph, specifically.
Joyner and a dozen other kids who spend most afternoons after school at the library got a return visit there from Grammy-nominated producer and recording artist Chris “Big Dog” Davis.
Davis had some unfinished business to attend to after visiting Stetson a week earlier to release a copy of his new CD of “hip-hopera” takes on Christmas songs, Christmas in Connecticut with Chris “Big Dog” Davis.
At that first visit, the kids joined in on a rap version of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” (The above video captures the moment.) Afterwards, Davis heard from folks about how good the song sounded — and was asked why it’s not on the CD.
He returned this week to recruit Stetson kids for a recording session to produce a single of the song. First, on Friday, he told them the story about Rudolph — about spoke about how he, like Rudolph, was bullied as a kid.
“When I was growing up, everybody made fun of Big Dog. I wasn’t this big. I was a skinny little guy,” he said.
He spoke of how in the story, the other reindeer tell Rudolph, “Get out of here. Your nose is too big.”
But then Christmas Eve gets so foggy, Santa can’t see well enough to start delivering presents with the other reindeer.
“Who do they go get?” Davis asked the kids.
“Rudolph!” Lonnay and her friends, decked out with antlers, called out.
“Because his nose is so bright.”
“So it don’t really matter,” Davis concluded, “if you have a big head, or big feet. It will all work out. We all are Rudolph. Whatever people talk about you, it’s OK.”
Lonnay, who’s 13, raised her hand and spoke about how a girl bullied her at school a while back. She spoke to her mom, to the principal, went about her way without cowering, and it all eventually worked out.
She considers Stetson a safe, and fun, place to do her homework every afternoon, explore on the computers, play with the other kids.
On Wednesday, the kids reprised their version of Rudolph with Davis, rapper Mike G, and singer “Timmy.”
Then Head Librarian Diane Brown brought them outside for 10 minutes, to unwind and have some more fun before returning inside a day before Davis planned to return to bring them to a West Haven studio to cut the track.
Click on the above sound file to hear a recent interview with Chris “Big Dog” Davis on WNHH radio about his remarkable journey from a childhood in Connecticut and about his latest CD project.