Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christmas Music

Have yourself an old-time Christmas this year.

By now, many folks living in the Detroit area (you know, the most dangerous city), have at least caught a snippet of radio station WNIC 24/7 Christmas music format. This is where one can here 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree,' 'Jingle Bell Rock,' 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,' and 'Holly Jolly Christmas' once, and sometimes twice an hour. This is where one can listen to today's contemporary artists (Mariah Carey, et al.) kill the music you know and love or, better still, write new "Christmas songs" that sound like every other 'diva' tune out there - not Christmas-y at all.
My mother, who normally simply cannot wait for 'NIC to begin playing the Christmas tunes, ended up turning it off because she was sick of it - and it's not even Thanksgiving yet!
It's not that she's sick of Christmas music - she is tired of the same songs played over and over and over and over...she knows there is much more out there that WNIC doesn't even touch.
(To WNIC's credit, I will give them this much: a couple of years ago, they played only secular Christmas music - Santa, Rudolph, and the like - nothing sacred...not even 'God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen' or 'Silent Night.' I sent them an email asking why. The response was that they didn't want to offend anyone, especially non-Christians. My response? If someone is playing Christmas music, chances are they are Christians - or at least celebrate the holiday - and that I doubted there were very many Jews or Muslims listening. The next year, a noticeable increase in sacred music was presented to the listening public.)
For those who know me know that I have a rather large collection of Christmas music, from the classics of Ray Conniff, Johnny Mathis, Mitch Miller, Nat King Cole, and Bing Crosby, to the fun rock and roll of the Drifters 'White Christmas,' Beach Boys, Elvis, and the Ventures, to the Country Christmas music of Emmylou Harris, the Judds, George Strait, Susy Boggus, Patty Loveless, and Willie Nelson, to the contemporary CD's of 'A Very Special Christmas,' and Amy Grant, to the children's music with the original Chipmuncks, 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas,' etc.
But, my very favorite Christmas music is what I call Victorian (or Old World) Christmas music. This includes artists such as Linda Russell, Robin Petrie, The Christmas Revels, Maggie Sansone, Katie McMahon, The Chieftains, Madeline MacNeal, Bonnie Rideout, and even the the early recordings of Mannheim Steamroller. These artists perform traditional Christmas music on period and traditional instruments like the hammered dulcimer, penny whistle, mountain dulcimer, and very old guitars and pianos. The vocals are as if the performers were in your living room, singing just for you.
Now, they do many popular tunes that you will know and recognize, such as 'God Rest Ye,' 'Silent Night,' 'Jingle Bells,' 'The First Nowell,' 'It Came upon a Midnight Clear,' etc. But, there are so many wonderful Christmas songs that have been forgotten about. Tunes like 'The Gloucestershire Wassail,' 'The Holly Bears a Berry,' 'A Virgin Unspotted,' 'Riu Riu Chiu,' 'The Boar's Head Carol,' 'All You That Are Good Fellows,' 'In The Bleak Mid-Winter,' 'Bring A Torch Jeannette Isabella,' and countless others.
By listening to this music over the top sellers I have found myself enjoying Christmas music so much more. Why? Because I don't hear the same 10 tunes over and over and I don't get sick of it. I also know that the majority of this Old World music has a history - a much deeper history than say, Woolworth's advertisement campaign which spawned 'Rudolph.'
When my house lights are off and just the lights from our Christmas tree are glowing, the last thing I want to hear is 'Run Run Rudolph' or 'Santa's Beard.' Beautiful hammered dulcimer and fiddle with a five piece vocal quartet is the perfect soundtrack to a perfect holiday.
Pretty much all of the music I have mentioned is available on Amazon.com

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