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Title: Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
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Christmas Music Guru
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(Date Posted:07/27/2008 02:42)


In celebration of Christmas in July, I invite you to click on the link below and enjoy the classic 1954 version of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas by Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians.


Mr. Waring actually first recorded this classic in 1942; it was released by Decca Records as a 78 rpm disc.

Then, in 1949, it was released as the title song on a 10" LP:





But the definitive version was recorded 12 years later in 1954; Decca released it the next year, in 1955, on the expanded 12" LP with the famous Norman Rockwell cover:





As with the original 1942 version, this definitive 1954 rendition was set to music by Ken Darby and arranged by Harry Simeone (who was an arranger for Fred Waring for many years before eventually forming The Harry Simeone Chorale). The soloists for the 1954 recording were Jack Best, Gordon Goodman, The Teen Trio, and The Glee Club (the latter being formed by another Waring alumnus, Robert Shaw, who later formed the Robert Shaw Chorale).

Fred Waring later recorded the song yet again; this time in 1961 for the Capitol Records LP, "The Meaning of Christmas," but this version paled by comparison to the 1954 rendition. In fact, all of the later Capitol Christmas recordings paled by comparison to the original recordings on Decca.

Harry Simeone, himself, later recorded the song on his own in 1965 for the LP, "O Bambino/The Little Drummer Boy." However, this version is by no means in the same league with that of The Pennsylvanians.

So here now without further ado is the definitive 1954 recording of Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians great Christmas classic, 'Twas The Night Before Christmas:






*[Edit of 08/22/10: Updated YouTube hyperlink]
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JustaJeepGuy
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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:07/27/2008 18:42)

 Hello Chip,

I figured I would join up here so I could comment on your post.  We have corresponded in the past, but only by e-mail.  I hadn't joined before because I don't own a TV and have never seen the Log.  I'm just a Christmas music aficionado. (Did I spell that correctly?:-))

I just had to comment on your classifying this particular verson of the Pennsylvanians' "Twas the Night..." as "definitive".  Personally, I greatly prefer the version from "The Meaning Of Christmas" because that version has an added touch that says Christmas to me.  After the part where "...he looked like a little old peddler just opening his pack." and just before "His eyes, how they twinkled..." there's a string of maybe 8 or 10 notes, not highly emphasized, without which I just can't feel Christmas.  (Of course, this may be because this is the way I first heard it in 1965.)  Also, it's the version without the excessively "southern" accent of the girl mentioning Santa's bow-like mouth.  When she does it (did it, I should say...) with a drawl, it's much nicer than when done with a hard accent (strictly my personal opinion, I hasten to add!).  

I'd like to read what you think of the difference between the two (or more!) versions.  Thanks!

Mike

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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:07/29/2008 00:39)


Welcome to the board, Mike; glad to see you finally took the plunge and became a member. Sorry for the delayed response, but as I said to Susan in my previous post tonight, I have been quite ill as of late.

Now with regard to your post: I can completely understand, given the circumstances that you alluded to in your post, why it is you prefer the Capitol version of Fred Waring's ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas over the Decca recording. As you said yourself, this is the version that you first heard in 1965 when you were growing up. However, while it is one thing to say that this is your favorite version and then state the reasons why in your opinion you believe this to be the case, it is completely another matter to suggest that the 1954 recording is not the definitive version, as the claim clearly has no merit and is not based on the facts. There are those who could just as easily say that Harry Simeone's version is the definitive version simply because they heard his version first, but that reasoning simply does not make it so.

The undisputed fact of the matter is that Mr. Waring was in his prime and at the pinnacle of his career and success, both artistically and commercially, when he recorded for Decca Records. These were the golden years of The Pennsylvanians, and that is neither conjecture nor subjective -- it's a bona fide fact.

By the time Mr. Waring signed with Capitol Records in 1957, he did so with a much smaller ensemble. Frankly, the group was a poor shadow of its former self. The post-Decca years did not include arrangers Harry Simeone, Robert Shaw, Ken Darby, Livingston Gearhart and Roy Ringwald, all of whom had left the group by this time to either strike out on their own, or simply retire. Also departed by this time were the great soloists Stuart Churchill, Dee Harless, Bob Sands, Walter Scheff, Donna Dae, Poley McClintock, The Teen Trio (Jean Hendon, June Hendon & Sandy Schneider), and Tom Waring (Mr. Waring's brother). In addition to all this, Mr. Waring no longer had his own band anymore, and unfortunately relied on studio musicians to supply the music for the rest of his recording career. In short, the heyday of the great Pennsylvanians was over.

Subjectively, it is completely plausible for one to argue why he or she might like the Capitol version over the Decca; but what is not tenable is to argue that the 1954 version is not the definitive version -- that would be grossly unfair to the memory and legacy of The Pennsylvanians. The Capitol recordings, while descent, were by no means the quintessential music of Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians. To devoted Waring aficionados like myself, there is total agreement on this. I consider myself quite fortunate to know one of the former members of the Pennsylvanians, Peter Kiefer. Pete was with the Pennsylvanians for over 30 years and was a great friend of Mr. Waring and his wife, Virginia. He was also the director of the Waring Music Workshops that Mr. Waring was famously known for. In addition to this, for many years he was the curator for the Fred Waring Library at Penn State University, until last year when he finally retired. Pete also authored the book "The Fred Waring Discography," which was first published in 1996.

http://www.amazon.com/Fred-Waring-Discography-Discographies/dp/0313299102%3FSubscriptionId%3D1NNRF7QZ418V218YP1R2%26tag%3Dbookfindercom0e%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3D0313299102

Pete has also been working hard for many years to get the Decca Christmas recordings released on CD. The reason why this has been such a problem is because the Decca recordings are in mono. The Capitol recordings, on the other hand, were recorded in stereo, and since they are currently in print on CD, MCA/Universal is reticent to reissue them for fear they might not sell as well as the Capitol CD's. Let me just say categorically, and in no uncertain terms, that the technological superiority of stereo Capitol recordings over the mono Decca recordings does not in any way make up for what the Capitol recordings lack artistically. As further evidence to this, in 1998 Reader's Digest released a 3-CD collector's edition of Fred Waring's music called "The Very Best of Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians." This collection features all-original recordings of the group's music, and on disc 3 they included 10 Christmas songs, including ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that the Christmas recordings Reader's Digest chose to put on this collection were the Decca recordings. These 10 songs were from the three Christmas albums the group recorded for Decca: "The Song of Christmas," "'Twas The Night Before Christmas," and "Christmas Time." It also should come as no surprise to anyone that there are no songs on this collection from the Capitol years, which was only proper. Unfortunately, this collection is now out of print; however, there are 3 new copies and 6 used copies currently available from private sellers on Amazon for pretty reasonable prices. If anyone is interested, I encourage you to act now as the price of these CD's will only go up in the future.

http://www.amazon.com/Very-Best-Fred-Waring-Pennsylvanians/dp/B000FJMMDO


One other thing of note that I'd like to mention about Pete is that he has been working for some time now with PBS-TV (even in his retirement) to try and get them to purchase the rights from the Waring library to broadcast "The Fred Waring Show," which aired on CBS-TV during five of the group's golden years from 1949-1954 -- which again, were when they were at the pinnacle of their popularity.

Lastly, I just had to say that the girl you alluded to with the southern accent is what I always considered to be the lowest point on the Capitol version of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. To me, it was just out of place and never fit. The reason, however, is simple: the singers for these six lines in the song describing Santa's attributes in the definitive 1954 version were none other than The Teen Trio. The Teen Trio was comprised of two sisters and their cousin -- that's why they harmonized so well together. They were always a favorite of fans of The Pennsylvanians. The singers Mr. Waring used for these lines on the Capitol version were just girls he pulled from the chorus and received no billing.



*[Edit of 06/28/10 to correct text]


(Message edited by Christmas Music Guru On 06/28/2010 17:37)
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JustaJeepGuy
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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:07/29/2008 17:29)

As always Chip, thanks for the response.  I appreciate the effort you went to to straighten me out here, considering your health state and all.  I have known people who have had kidney stones and they are always so much better when the stones pass.  I'm hoping yours has done so.

"Definitive" should be a term thoroughly understood by all.  I didn't see it the way you did...but I'm following you now. I hadn't known of the extent to which The Pennsylvanians had diminished by the time Capitol signed them.  But hey, that's because you're the guru, and I'm merely an aficionado. 

I can only say that I wish that the string of notes I referred to had been used in the Decca recordings by The Pennsylvanians.  Also, the recordings of the subject song where that one girl's accent (if it was the same girl) was even harsher than on "The Meaning..." are best avoided. 

The Decca/Capitol difference brings up another question: when did the Waring album "A Caroling We Go" come out?  It's from Decca too, but when?  (Reply only if your physical state permits, please!)
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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:07/29/2008 22:30)


You're welcome Mike, and thanks for your best wishes for me that the stone will pass. Unfortunately, sometimes they don't; thereby requiring the surgical procedure which I'll be having tomorrow.

Now, in response to your post: the description "definitive" is something that is basically earned and awarded over time by a general consensus. It does not mean that everyone will agree; but what it does mean is that an overwhelming majority of people do. Let me give you a paradigmatic example: the 1951 film version of "A Christmas Carol" (aka "Scrooge" as it is known in its home country of the U.K.) The overwhelming majority of people (and movie critics alike) agree categorically that this is indeed the definitive film version of Dickens classic story. However, I actually knew someone that thought the George C. Scott version was the definitive version, simply because they had seen that version first. Needless to say, this person had absolutely no knowledge or appreciation of classic film.

With regard to those extra musical notes that are in the Capitol version of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, I always felt they broke the flow of the song and was never quite sure why Mr. Waring changed Harry Simeone's arrangement at that particular juncture of the song. However, I can certainly understand that since that is the version you have known since 1965, you would prefer it that way.

I didn't quite understand what you were trying to say when you said:

"Also, the recordings of the subject song where that one girl's accent (if it was the same girl) was even harsher than on "The Meaning..." are best avoided."

Let me just reiterate that the singers for this part of the song on the 1954 version were The Teen Trio (comprised of two sisters and their cousin), and they were not from the South; they were from the Midwest. The singers for this part of the song on the Capitol version were just girls Mr. Waring pulled out of the chorus -- they were not a stand-alone ensemble like The Teen Trio was. On the Capitol version, with regard to that girl that sings the line, "His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow" -- quite frankly, her southern drawl sounds contrived; and then, after she delivers her line, the next girl that sings the line "The beard on his chin was as white as the snow" sounds like a little bratty kid. These girls were a far cry from The Teen Trio.

Finally, to answer your last question: after his Capitol years, Mr. Waring returned to Decca Records in 1966 and recorded the LP, "A-Caroling We Go." Surprisingly, this album actually sounded more like the original Pennsylvanians than the Capitol recordings, which is why it is in the 1st Tier of my "Top Play," along with his two greatest Christmas LP's, "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" and "Christmas Time." All three of his Capitol Christmas albums reside in my 2nd Tier (albums 126-250 in my collection).

**Also, I just wanted to take this opportunity to point out to everyone that it wasn't I who posted the Waring clip on YouTube. The reason I wanted to point this out is because the person that did post it was colorful but a bit crass in his language explaining why he posted it, and I didn't want anyone to think those were my words. If you want to see what I'm talking about, go to the video and just click on the "More info" link in the box on the upper right-hand side of the screen.
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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:07/30/2008 00:49)

 What I meant by the part about avoiding some versions of the song was, there is at least one other around where the girl really put her (fake?) accent on.  It's definitely not a drawl!  And the "kid" is undoubtedly a woman faking a child's voice.  Hey!  I'm liking the '61 version less and less!  Except for the "flow breaking" part...  There's a kind of break there anyway to set the stage for the Santa description.

It's funny, I never for a second thought you had posted the video. 

Oh, and have you ever said just how many  albums you have in your collection?

Do they still do the ultrasound stone-breakup technique?  Good luck with the procedure, whatever it is. 
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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:07/31/2008 01:28)


Thanks Mike, and yes that technique is still practiced -- it's called Lithotripsy; ultrasound imaging locates the stone and then shock waves are used to break it up into smaller pieces which then can pass more freely. This is the most common non-invasive treatment for kidney stones. However, even though it's non-invasive, it does have potential long-term side effects. That is why I was so fortunate this morning when just before I was to leave for the hospital, the stone passed. That's the good news; the bad news is that I still have three more stones: one in the left kidney and two in the right. In the future, I will have to decide whether to exercise the Lithotripsy option before the stones try to exit the kidney, or just let them try to pass and endure the pain. For now though, I'm just going to bask in the glory of this sudden and fortuitous change of events.

By the way, I spoke to Pete Kiefer today and asked him if he remembered who the girls were that sang the Teen Trio's lines in the 1961 version of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, but he couldn't recall. I, myself, was curious about the girl with the seemingly contrived accent. And just a little update on the three gals from The Teen Trio: all have left their home state of Michigan; sisters Jean and June Hendon (who are identical twins by the way) now live in Florida; and cousin, Sandy Schneider, now lives in California.

I also have a big update on Pete's ongoing negotiations with PBS to get them to broadcast the original Fred Waring TV show; he actually hopes to have a contract signed with PBS in the near future that will bring the show to the national PBS network within a year. They have put together a 5-show mini-package that will air in hourly installments over 5 a week period; each hour is pretty much a complete show with a few clips from other shows added in. As an initial run, PBS station WPSU in University Park, Pennsylvania with be exclusively running the series beginning this Saturday, August 2 at 7:00 pm. When it becomes available on your local PBS station, this will be a golden opportunity for you to see The Pennsylvanians when they were in their prime and at the peak of their artistic success. I'll keep everyone informed as events unfold and broadcast times become available.                

To answer your question about my collection: no, I have never publically stated how many albums I have in my entire collection, because frankly, I don't even know myself -- in fact, I don't even think I want to know! However, here is what I can tell you: out of my entire collection, I have what I refer to as my "Top Play" (which I finally capped at 300 albums last year). As my Top Play grew over the years, I had to create Tiers -- initially for time management -- in order that during my official holiday playing season (which is from November 1st through Christmas) I may be able to concentrate on the best of the best, so to speak. But over the years, as my Top Play grew, it began to take on a new meaning: it was a way to distinguish the very best from the second best, and the second best from the third best. In short, it actually became a way of rating an album just by virtue of what Tier it was in. So for example, when I'm talking to someone about a particular album, all I have to say is what Tier in my collection it is in and that person will instantly know where that record stands in my collection.

Now, let me just say that I do rate my albums individually on a scale of 1-10; however, notwithstanding, I rarely give that individual rating anymore -- the Tier ranking itself will say it all. In fact, that has been my practice for the most part on this very board. And keep in mind, these are my greatest 300 albums; so when I say to someone that an album that he or she might be asking me about is in my 2nd or 3rd Tier, that person shouldn't be offended -- it only means that album wasn't good enough to be in my 1st Tier. I love all 300 of these albums, and even some that didn't make my Top Play. Nevertheless, when it comes right down to it -- there's the best, and then there's the rest. That's just how it is.

Here is how my Top Play is comprised:

*The 1st Tier is for albums 1-125; any album in this elite group will have a minimum rating of 8, but the vast majority are rated at 9 or 10.

*The 2nd Tier is for albums 126-250; any album in this group will have a minimum rating of 7, but most are rated at 8 or 9.

*The 3rd Tier is for albums 251-300; albums in this group have ratings of 6 or 7. (I added this Tier in 2005 as a result of my growing collection)

During my official holiday playing season from November 1st through Christmas, I concentrate on the albums in my 1st Tier; then, as time permits, I play from my 2nd Tier. I only play from my 3rd Tier during the year, outside my official holiday playing season. Lastly, any album rated at 5 or less resides in my archives -- and that number far exceeds the number of albums in my Top Play.


(Message edited by Christmas Music Guru On 07/31/2008 23:23)
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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:07/31/2008 02:05)

Pete has also been working hard for many years to get the Decca Christmas recordings released on CD. The reason why this has been such a problem is because the Decca recordings are in mono. The Capitol recordings, on the other hand, were recorded in stereo, and since they are currently in print on CD, MCA/Universal is reticent to reissue them for fear they might not sell as well as the Capitol CD's.


Funny how this "logic" tends to only be used with regard to artists and recordings from the pre-rock era.  I mean, Chuck Berry (just to give an example) re-recorded a number of his classic '50s Chess hits in stereo for the Mercury label in the '60s...but when's the last time you heard any oldies station play those re-recorded versions?  And how often do you hear listeners clamoring for them?

 
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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:03/03/2010 00:50)

Chip,

Goodness knows, if there is anyone to ask this question to, it is you.

I have been trolling for the Fred Waring Christmas albums that you mentioned on the Decca label and came across one that lists as a stereo recording of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.  Obviously that was a mono recording and not stereo, so I am a bit confused.  The Decca album is DL 78171.

Knowing that there were probably re-releases of these albums, and keeping in mind that I am most interested in the music rather than obtaining the absolute originals, can you guide me in what album numbers I should be looking for in order to get 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, Christmas Time and A-Caroling We Go?  It could be helpful in getting the right albums.

Another thing that I just cannot stand is where a reissue comes out and it is missing a song or songs from the original.  I don't know if that is the case with any of the Fred Waring albums we are are talking about here, but it is certainly something I would like to avoid if possible.

I was also curious as to whether or not the 2 CD Fred Waring set titled Christmas Magic was worthy of a purchase, or would my money be better spent elsewhere?  I know it is not from the Decca years, but I noted that most of the music in your second tier is rated an 8 or a 9.  That is pretty high marks as far as I am concerned and I read that this CD was remastered well.

. . . and just so I can make sure that I have this straight, you like the 1961 rendering of the song 'Twas the Night Before Christmas better than the 1954 one, right? 

-=Perry
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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:03/03/2010 03:45)


Perry,

Fred Waring's first two Christmas albums for Decca Records ('Twas The Night Before Christmas and Christmas Time) were recorded in mono, but later reissued with simulated (re-channeled) stereo. I highly recommend that you stick with the mono pressings of these two LPs. As for Mr. Waring's third Christmas album for Decca, A-Caroling We Go, it was recorded in true stereo; therefore, I recommend the stereo pressing of this LP.

The number "7" after the "DL" in the Decca LP catalog number indicates stereo or simulated stereo. Having said that, here are the LP catalog numbers you should look for:

'Twas The Night Before Christmas: DL-8171 (not DL-78171)
Christmas Time: DL-8172 (not DL-78172)
A-Caroling We Go: DL-74809 (not DL-4809)

I also recommend that you avoid the MCA reissues of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas (MCA-15016) and Christmas Time (MCA-15011), as these are also in simulated stereo. However, the MCA reissue of A-Caroling We Go (MCA-15009) is fine, as it is in true stereo.

Also, be aware that MCA also released an abridged version of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas with the new name Jingle Bells (after the lead song on the LP). It had the original Norman Rockwell cover, but was missing several songs; therefore, it goes without saying that I don't recommend this reissue.

As for Mr. Waring's three Capitol Records Christmas albums (Now Is The Caroling Season, The Sounds Of Christmas and The Meaning Of Christmas), they are all definitely worth buying, but I would wait until after you've already acquired his three Decca Christmas albums. While his Capitol Christmas recordings were good, they all suffer by comparison to his original Decca Christmas recordings.

By the way, I'm sure you were just being facetious, but just so there is no doubt about which of the three Fred Waring renditions of the song 'Twas The Night Before Christmas was the best; it was categorically the 1954 version, followed by the 1942 version and then the 1961 version.
 

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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:03/05/2010 00:22)

Thank you so much, Chip.  Exactly the information that I was looking for.

Now finding those albums (in excellent condition) might be another story altogether.  Hopefully time will reveal them to me.  :-)

. . . and yes, I was being facetious.

Again, thank you so much for your help.  It is very much appreciated.

-=Perry


(Message edited by Strider77 On 03/05/2010 00:24)
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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:01/23/2011 10:02)

Hi guys.  New member.

I have a question.  I have "Twas the Night Before Christmas" (the song) in an edited version on the compilation CD The Ultimate Christmas Album, Vol. 3 (Collectables 2513) and have been trying to figure out which version it is.  From your descriptions, it sounds like it might be the 1954 version, but Collectables seems to reissue a lot of Capitol material, so I'm not certain.  Anybody know for sure?

(Message edited by joliom On 01/23/2011 10:03)
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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:01/23/2011 22:08)


Welcome to the board, Joliom.

T
o answer your question; yes, I can tell you categorically which version of the song is included on The Ultimate Christmas Album, Vol. 3: it is the 1954 version. All compilation albums that include Fred Waring's 'Twas The Night Before Christmas choose the 1954 version because the record companies recognize that to be the definitive version and know that is what people want to hear.









*[Edited to add my YouTube listing for the 1954 version of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas]



(Message edited by Christmas Music Guru On 01/23/2011 22:18)
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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:01/25/2011 01:46)

Thanks for clearing that up for me.  It sounds like they did choose the definitve version, but dropped the ball by going with an edit.
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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:01/25/2011 15:24)


Yes, they did a real disservice to the song by offering it in an edited form.


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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:05/10/2013 09:03)

Do you know if the 1942 recording has ever been released, even on some low-budget cheapie label somewhere?
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RE:Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians
(Date Posted:05/11/2013 01:19)


No, the 1942 version has never been released on CD.


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