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A Red State Mystic.

On Christmas Music

On Christmas Music

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The Swoop
HERE WE ARE in the downward-slope of the Twelve Days of Christmas, barreling towards the Feast of the Epiphany. I spent most of last week in Indiana, spending time with my family and seeing many old friends. I hope you had a fantastic Christmas and that your New Year has started out on good footing.

I HAVE ASKED four questions of numerous people for the last few weeks and have always been surprised by their responses. The four questions are: 1) What is your favorite Sacred Christmas Song?; 2) What is your Least Favorite Sacred Song?; 3) What is your Favorite Secular Christmas Song? and 4) What is your Least Favorite Secular Song? Here are my answers:

Favorite Sacred Song:



"In the Bleak Midwinter"
Words by Christina Rossetti and music by Gustav Holst.

I'm not quite sure why this tops my list, as I did not grow up singing it. The words are deeply contemplative and the tune is slightly melancholic, but I find it all very beautiful. Plus, it has anachronisms that I just find delightful: eg. talking about the "snow on snow" around the manger. The last verse always gets me and I almost always choke up during this hymn. I can still remember the first time I sang it a few years ago.

Honorable Mentions:
"O Come, All Ye Faithful" for the bombast!
"Angels We Have Heard On High" for the most pleasing tenor line on the Glooooooooria in excelsis parts.
"Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day" because you can't sing the word "love" too many times! "Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass" has to be one of the best lines in any hymn, too.

Least Favorite Sacred Song:



"It Came Upon A Midnight Clear"
words by Edmund Sears and music by Richard Willis.

My biggest gripe with this hymn is not the words, but the tune (Noel), which just grates my ears and makes me want to punch kittens in the face. The tune is schmaltzy and overly-sentimental, lending itself to sliding between pitches as best exemplified by crooners and untrained singers (listen to the above video). I would much prefer it sung to another tune. In fact, I'd prefer it sung to any other tune. Someday I'll record myself singing how I imagine everyone sings it -- you might get a good laugh from it.

Un-honorable Mention:
"Angels from the Realms of Glory" because the tune is just plain annoying.

Favorite Secular Song:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gmiSPMHrWQ&feature=related
(You'll have to click the link as they've disabled embedding)

"Christmas Time Is Here", music by Vince Guaraldi Trio.
It's not that I mind the version that has the kids singing, its just that it is so much nicer without them. While I am a Pianist, I don't have much experience playing Jazz, but this is the kind of Jazz music I'd like to play. It's just so smooth. I love just about all the music from "A Charlie Brown Chrismas", but this one is my favorite!

Honorable Mention:
"The Christmas Song" Because I'm still young enough to giggle at the opening line.
"Carol of the Bells" it is loads of fun to sing, especially at a breakneck speed!

Least Favorite Secular Song:



"Santa Baby", performed by Eartha Kitt
I must confess that the list of "Least Favorite Secular Christmas Songs" is lengthy, but for me, "Santa Baby" takes the cake. I'm not sure if its the rank materialism, the suggestive lyrics or the objectification of St. Nicholas that gets me the most. Could you imagine Eartha Kitt singing this to the actual St. Nicholas? I wonder what kind of blushing he would do underneath his big, Orthodox beard and his mitre. He'd probably smite her, too. The only thing "sliding down her chimney tonight" would be a slap in her face. Boo doo bee doo.

They're actually playing in the third ring of hell:
"I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" No, you did not.
"All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" All I want is for you to be quiet.
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is only good when it is sung in Yiddish.
"Silver Bells" should be sung as "Sliding pitches, sliding pitches, why can't we sing like real singers?"

SO, WHAT ARE your favorite and least favorite music from the Christmas season? I'd love to hear from you!
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