Day 2: 12 Days of Christmas Music 2013

Today’s selection comes from the good ol’ U.S. of A and is simply “The Christmas Song.”

I picked this one partly because it sounds so doggone American: it’s got a bunch of jazz chords, evokes Christmas in New York City (hello, chestnuts), and the lyrics tap into American traditions of Christmas. It seems that the idea of Santa as we know him now was pushed along in large part by the popularity of Clement C. Moore’s poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Provided Moore is the actual author of this poem most commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas” (its authorship is disputed), at least some of this magical, plump, sleigh-driving stuff came from Moore’s imagination when he combined the legend of St. Nicholas with his bearded Dutch friend who drove a sleigh around in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. Truly.

“The Christmas Song” takes that image of Santa as a given by the time it was written in 1944 by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells. It was written because it was hot. Not the song, the day. It was a terribly hot summer in California, and Wells was trying to think of wintry things to cool himself off. He jotted down “Chestnuts roasting…, Jack Frost nipping…, Yuletide carols…, Folks dressed up like Eskimos.” Tormé saw the list, thought it could make a great song, and within an hour, the now-classic Christmas song was born. This version is the chart-topping recording by Nat King Cole. It worked its way up the Billboard chart on four different years.

Enjoy, and stay tuned! We’ve got Filipino, Peruvian, and Macaronic music in the line up. Happy 2nd day!

Day 1: 12 Days of Christmas Music 2013

It’s the first day of the countdown!

After trying this out last year, we doing the 12 Days of Christmas Music again.*
This year I’m going to try highlighting different Christmas music from different cultures and countries around the world. If you know just the perfect story to some cool song, send it along as I’m still finalizing the countdown.
For today I’m sending the same one that kicked things off last year because it’s too perfect. Instead of compiling music of Christmas from around the world, this one takes music from around the world (mostly Europe) and shoehorns it into the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” a lovely poetic inversion.
This is Craig Courtney’s “A Musicological Journey through the Twelve Days of Christmas“. This performance is by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Want details on each day? Keep reading below!

Continue reading “Day 1: 12 Days of Christmas Music 2013”

Day 12: 12 Days of Christmas Music 2012

[As with Day 11, this is not the original version I used, but I haven’t found that version that I can link to online. This is a nice version as well, but I prefer the original one I used.]
Merry Christmas Eve! I hope you’re looking forward to tomorrow and feeling cheered by the season. Thank you, all, so much for enjoying this countdown with me! Thank you for your replies, for sharing songs with me. This little project has put me in the Christmas spirit perhaps more than anything else this year.
I debated whether or not to end with a less familiar carol, but the lyrics to this one and the feeling the song captures seemed to be exactly what I wanted to end with. “If You Would Hear the Angels Sing” is, I believe, a Dutch carol. These lyrics seem to have been written/adapted by Dora Greenwell in the 1800s.
The song describes various trappings of Christmas: a warm fire, the food, Christmas bread. And it acknowledges that the world is dark with want and care, but Christmas comes in the morning — that time is weary and worn and cold, but Christmas comes in the morning. The part that made my heart soar when I sang it, however, was the ending, calling people to rise and welcome Christmas and then suddenly remembering that “many there be that stand outside.” I think of those who fit that description every time I hear it.
This Christmas and at any time, if you would hear the angels sing, “people, see [that] you let each door stand wider than e’er it stood before.” The world is wide, and Christmas comes in the morning.
A very merry Christmas to each of you!
If You Would Hear the Angels Sing

If you would hear the angels sing
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
Think of him who was once a child
On Christmas day in the morning.

If you would hear the angels sing,
Rise and spread your Christmas fare.
‘Tis merrier still the more that share
On Christmas day in the morning.

Rise, and bake your Christmas bread.
People, rise, the world is bare
and blank and dark with want and care,
Yet Christmas comes in the morning.

If you would hear the angels sing,
Rise, and light your Christmas fire,
And see that you pile the logs still higher,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Rise, and light your Christmas fire.
People, rise! The world is old,
And time is weary, worn, and cold,
Yet, Christmas comes in the morning!

If you would hear the angels sing,
People, see you let each door
Stand wider than e’er it stood before,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Rise, and open! People rise! The world is wide,
And many there be that stand outside.
Yet Christmas comes in the morning.

Day 11: 12 Days of Christmas Music 2012

[These are archived posts from when this lil’ project was in email form, and I can’t find an online version of the song I emailed out, so here is a worthy substitute version instead.]

Like a lot of people I’ve loved “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel” for a long time. I love how it is contemplative and earnest. I love that it beckons and rejoices.

“O come desire of nations bind in one the hearts of all mankind. Bid thou our sad divisions cease, and be thyself the king of peace. Rejoice!”

Day 10: 12 Days of Christmas Music 2012

There was a moment while I was growing up some time in the week before Christmas when the house was decorated, and we were making yummy cookies, wrapping presents, and planning to doorbell ditch a surprise for someone, and I remember feeling so overwhelmingly excited about Christmas. Then this song came on our stereo (record player? my dad had the record), and I felt like shouting, “YES, Andy Williams!! It is The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” He spoke (sang) to my heart. This video even has wonderfully kitschy dissolves to help you get in the spirit.

Have a delightful Saturday!

Day 9: 12 Days of Christmas Music 2012


I decided I needed to put one sad song on the list.

Maybe you’re sad that tonight is the longest night of the year. Maybe you’re sad that so far today’s apocalypse has been a major disappointment. Maybe, like many of us, you’ve got much more legitimate reasons for being sad. Or maybe you’re not sad at all, but you can appreciate a performance that kinda puts it all out there. In any case, I think you’ll really like Over the Rhine’s “All I Ever Get for Christmas is Blue.”
At its heart, Over the Rhine (also known as OTR) is a husband-wife team, Linford and Karin. She’s the vocalist, and he’s on keyboards in this song. My impression from interviews and things I’ve read is that they’re really lovely people. Recently he wrote a letter to the NRA about reevaluating the nation’s policy on gun control, even though they own two guns themselves. They’ve received some backlash about that, some threats to boycott theirmusic, and some harsh criticism. Her response was that those who disagreed and didn’t want to have a respectful conversation about it were “still welcome to come to the table.” Pretty generous.
Enjoy Over the Rhine.

Day 8: 12 Days of Christmas Music 2012

Time for another classic, I think. For whatever reason, jazz really works for me for Christmas, a certain kind of jazz at least. It’s warm, inviting, laid-back, and you can have it on while you wrap gifts, bake goodies, or just sit and enjoy the tree lights. So take all of that and add classic Charlie Brown, and you get the Vince Guaraldi trio playing “O Tannenbaum.” Have a feel-good Thursday!