Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Hodgepodge 53/365 - Christmas Music

I mentioned the other day that I can be a bit of a Grinch about Christmas coming too early, but how this year I've been happy to see the lights go up around town.

That happiness has not spread to hearing Christmas music broadcast far and wide, however. Like, in such places as . . . Safeway (our local super- market). For a month now. It's not even good Christmas music. And isn't the music supposed to make us want to shop? When I go to Safeway, I am there because I need food. The faux–Christmas cheer makes me want to hurry up and get away. I swear I eat less healthfully in December because of it.

That said, it is now the week before Christmas, and it's time for Christmas music. At last!

David's little chorus, Voci, is singing each night this week from 6 to 7 in the lobby at Spanish Bay Resort in Pebble Beach, and this evening I went with my friend Nina to hear them. It was very pleasant! For one thing, I like watching them: they all dress in various combinations of black and red, with a little green and some sparkles splashed in, and it's visually so pleasing, plus: their beautiful faces as they sing. There's a giant Christmas tree that is also cheery, and every year the hotel commissions a tabletop gingerbread village to be made: this year it's a ski resort, complete with mountains (not made of gingerbread, alas). And of course, there are libations. Overpriced, but it's Pebble Beach. Grin and bear it—and pretend you're rich.

Nina wanted to hear "Jingle Bells," which it turns out isn't even on Voci's playlist, but they did do some other familiar tunes—"Little Drummer Boy," "Winter Wonderland," "Chestnusts Roasting on an Open Fire"—as well as some lesser-known carols that are quite lovely. We made up for the lack of jingling bells by singing the song on our drive home.

Despite my short appreciation for Christmas music, I do have a few Christmas CDs: Béla Fleck and the Flecktones Jingle All the Way (jazz banjo: how can that not be good? and "Jingle Bells" sung by Tuvan throat-singers, I mean, seriously!); Duke Ellington Three Suites (one of which is the Nutcracker Suite); Anonymous 4 On Yoolis Night: Medieval Carols and Motets, soft and somehow soothingly melancholy; a Deutsche Grammophon compilation called Ein Weihnachtskonzert (A Christmas Concert), full of blazing brass, very festive; Chanticleer (a San Francisco men's chorus) Our Heart's Joy: A Chanticleer Christmas, a lovely selection, including an awesome medley of spirituals; and finally, a sentimental nugget harking back to childhood: Bing Crosby's Merry Christmas. I wish I'd stolen that vinyl Decca album back when I was stealing a few other LPs and books of my parents'. Bing isn't really my style, but at Christmas, putting him on as background music while I bake cookies or whatnot? Kinda perfect.

I don't always listen to these albums at the Christmas season, but one album I do always listen to, on Christmas day itself, is Handel's Messiah. I have a couple of versions, one big and bold, one smaller and more quiet (with traditional instruments), both courtesy of my brother, who loves classical music.

Here are some performance videos that I scraped up just now. Béla Fleck (it gets going about one minute in), Chanticleer's sublime version of "Ave Maria," and sorry for the saccharine, but I had to include the "White Christmas" scene from the eponymous movie starring Bing and Danny Kaye—with the dialogue dubbed into German, ha ha ha! Geez, the things the Internet turns up. And finally, "For unto Us a Child Is Born" and the "Hallelujah" Chorus—the bookends of a single, earth-changing story.


Merry Christmas! Or whatever holiday you celebrate as we in the Northern Hemisphere slide back into the light. (Me, I'm happy celebrating Solstice, but it doesn't offer up much in the way of music.)

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