Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Musical Interlude

Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas in a religious fashion, I do like certain types of Christmas music, and to deepen the irony, I prefer the religious Christmas music — the carols and the anthems — over the jingly tinkly stuff that overpopulates the commercials.  I will take a good choral arrangement with brass of “Joy to the World” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” over some muzaked rendering of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” or “Jingle Bells” any day.  (Exception: I love a good rendition of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.”)

I think the reason is because the composers of those carols and hymns were doing it out of a genuine act of faith — or being paid by people who wanted to express it — so they put their heart and soul into coming up with something that glorified their belief, as opposed to driving people to shop at Wal-Mart.  Songs that celebrate the holiday but skirt around the actual reason for it — the birth of Jesus — are trying to be inoffensive to those of us who don’t go in for the whole Son of God bit.  But in doing so, all you get is a sentiment to celebrate something without a whole lot of meaning.  So when you hear “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” or Nat King Cole croon “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” all you’re getting is the wrapping.  And if you’re really going to celebrate the holiday — even if you aren’t Christian — you might as well go for the real reason and sing about the First Noel.  For one thing, the music is a lot better.

By the way, I never understood why songs that celebrate the season without mentioning Christmas at all — i.e. “Winter Wonderland” and “Let It Snow” — are considered Christmas songs and get bounced off the playlist after New Years.  Take it from someone who’s lived in snow country, winter lasts a hell of a lot longer than the final football bowl game.  I suspect that by the time you’ve put away all the decorations and shoveled the driveway for the fifth time in a day, that “winter wonderland” has you looking at Travelocity for a flight to Miami.

7 barks and woofs on “Musical Interlude

  1. Likewise, although the secular songs from the first half of the twentieth century are lovely, as well. I was speaking the other day with the accompanist for our corporate choir, and she mentioned a recent community holiday concert that featured brief performances by a number of groups, including a “praise band.” She didn’t say much good about their performance.

  2. My favorite religious carol: “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” My favorite secular one: “Sleigh Ride.” I prefer to think of the ones that don’t mention Christmas as “winter songs.” Why hasn’t there been a good one written about axial tilting?

  3. I likewise love many of the traditional carols. Some of the new ones, tho’? Reveling in their stupid….I heard one syrupy thing sitting in a doc’s office this week wherein the singer was talking to Mary and telling her that soon “the child that you deliver will then deliver you!”

    Riiight, theologically challenged there. Mary, by canon Christianity, was the Immaculate Conception, the only ‘original sin’ pure birth on the planet and she didn’t NEED deliverance by Jesus.

    The stupid continues to burn….could we get those astrophysicists to re-examine how bright planet Earth looks from space?

  4. Like you, some of my favotite Christmas songs are religious (a gulty pleasure?) but, perhaps due to childhood conditioning, I also still love “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” or “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and feel that I am getting more than just “the wrapping.” I must also confess that I enjoy Bob River’s “Walking Around In Women’s Underwear” parody of “Winter Wonderland.”

    I also love “Sleigh Ride” and must note that it isn’t specifically a “Christmas” song. Accoring to the Leroy Anderson Foundation:

    http://www.leroyandersonfoundation.org/sleigh_ride.php

    According to the composer’s widow Eleanor Anderson, “Leroy didn’t set out to write a Christmas piece when he wrote ‘Sleigh Ride.’ His intentions were to convey the entire winter season through the imagery of a sleigh ride, much in the way that Mozart did with his piece of the same name.”

    I could listen to “Sleigh Ride” any time.

    Happy Holidaze!

  5. Do other parts of the country get regional variations on traditional Xmas songs? I’m in Seattle and there’s a variation on “Winter Wonderland” that’s played around here every year that makes me gag: “…dreamin’ in Seattle’s Latte-land…”

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