This year I waited until last week to start playing my Christmas music. In years’ past, I have been known to play it as early as late summer! I am chalking this up to a busy fall.
I love Christmas music and definitely have my favorites songs and favorite CD’s. Music, whether being appreciated by listening or playing, can be food for the soul – enriching one’s sense of comfort and even gratitude for those who wrote the songs or play our favorite version.
Usually, I start my holiday listening with a Boston’s Pops or Radio City Music Hall CD that has beautiful renditions of pieces that have been popular for years – my favorites being Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson, Winter Wonderland, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, and We Need a Little Christmas.
However, I am just getting around to those CD’s now – more than a week after pulling out my collection. My first Christmas music this year was A Partridge Family Christmas, in deference to the late David Cassidy and his recent passing. As a child of the 70’s – the Partridge Family, their harmonious performances, and the characters were a huge part of my early youth. The CD was a gift from a good friend, years ago, and I think of her and my youth when I listen. It makes me feel good, albeit, now a little sad.
In more recent years, the soundtrack from the movie Elf has received the most play in my house. I sing along with a lot of the songs – especially, Baby, It’s cold Outside, as sung by Leon Redbone and Zooey Deschanel. There are many renditions of this tune now, but none I like better than the one from Elf. And, I must say, some – although sang by some very famous people – are utterly terrible, in my opinion. The thing I really like about the Elf CD is the mix of songs and the history of some of the featured performers like Eartha Kitt, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, and Eddy Arnold. These older, standard versions are mixed with newer versions of things like The Nutcracker Suite as performed by the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
We were able to see Brian Setzer in a Holiday Concert last December and were absolutely wowed by the talent of this performer. It was definitely a feel good, sing along, toe tapping experience! If you ever have the chance to see him and his group in concert, I would highly recommend it. Naturally, I have an entire holiday CD of his called Dig That Crazy Christmas, too. I save it for when I am in a Rock and Roll mood.
I guess variety is the most important thing about my holiday music collection, I have everything from Mannheim Steamroller to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, encompassing everything in between. I play the music that suits my mood. And, yes, sometimes I need to turn it off. There are also some recent renditions of holiday music that I do not care for at all. Some of these performers or groups are popular choices for other people, but I find myself cringing at what has been done to the cadence or even pitch in the songs.
Where did my appreciation of holiday music come from? It actually came from two places. One is church. I was blessed to attend a church while growing up that offered beautiful music. Our organists were affiliated with the Eastman School of Music (no, not Juilliard, but close) and holidays featured student musicians from there as well as local high schools. I had the good fortune to play my flute several times in church on Christmas Eve. I distinctly remember playing Carol of the Bells, and O Holy Night.
The second place my love for holiday music comes from is being a band student. I was in band throughout high school. It was a both a formative and impressionable experience for me. We had three bands, and an elective marching band, in which I participated on piccolo. Through my band experiences, I learned to appreciate all kinds of music. Sleigh Ride is a favorite Christmas song for a reason – we played it many years I was in band, and when I hear it I think of my many happy years as a music student. And although The Nutcracker Suite is not a favorite composition, Tchaikovsky is a favorite composer. Familiarity with his music, Christmas or otherwise, grew out of my band experience.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Carpenters Christmas Album. It is probably my all time favorite as it is seamlessly blends all those traditional church hymns with more secular fun tunes like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
Yes, I am not ashamed to say that I am a Christmas music lover. Happy Listening.