Music is surely an uplifting staple of Christmas
Monday, December 23, 2013 3:40 AM
I started compiling my Christmas playlist on Thanksgiving Day. It was while I was being defeated in a game of RISK that my thoughts turned toward those jubilant tunes only heard this time of year. I refuse, as a rule, to listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, but I cut myself some slack in order to prepare my playlist.
Using the free online music streaming service Spotify, I quickly started finding all my favorite tracks and albums. The first artists that came to my mind: Mannheim Steamroller, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Bing Crosby. From there, I began building my playlist, mostly by adding entire Christmas albums. Familiar singles were discovered in handy compilation albums. Album recommendations from Spotify were also added. The best part was finding that a single I enjoyed was part of an entire album. Yes, I get into Christmas music.
I now have 55 hours of music on that playlist (titled Awesome Christmas for those who want to follow it). I probably haven't listened to even half of it and I don't like all the music on there. However, there is variety and that touches on what I think is the most encouraging thing about Christmas music.
There is rock, country, pop, jazz, adult contemporary, choral, opera, folk and other genres that all get in on the Christmas vibe. The same songs are sung, the same lyrics are used (with some artistic license) and you usually get the same warm and cozy feeling no matter what style is being played. Christmas music is not genre-specific anymore, which is interesting. I bet those Germans never thought their obscure carols would evolve into the songs heard ubiquitously today.
Although I enjoy listening to a wide variety of genres with Christmas music today, I had my favorites growing up. My mother would bring out a small wooden sled filled with tape cassettes and compact discs that we would listen to during December. Of course, Mannheim Steamroller was there. We also had Sufjan Stevens, Barry Manilow and my personal favorite, Kenny Rogers. We also had several albums of choral Christmas music, which was all too appropriate to listen to as we decorated gingerbread men and the tree.
The radio was also a great source of holiday spirit. The 24/7 Christmas music station would always be turned on. There was something special about hearing the beginning of TSO's Christmas Eve/Sarajevo and running to crank up the volume before the electric guitars came in.
The '80s helped out Christmas music immensely. Wham!'s "Last Christmas" and Band-Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" are staples and they actually were released in the same year.
Depending on my mood and the day, one could find me enjoying a Randy Travis tune with all of its twang just as easily as listening to Andrea Bocelli's beautiful voice.
Beside the radio, one can find a plethora of music shows on television. I don't get very many channels, but have been pleased to see such shows as The Sing Off and The Voice produce incredibly talented performers without any of the ridiculous auditions.
Kelly Clarkson's Christmas album is actually pretty good and Michael Buble had specials. Plus, the classic Christmas specials all have amazing music. Vince Gauraldi and Burl Ives cannot be missed.
I guess I'm on an NBC binge because I was also happy to see them attempt a live musical with "The Sound of Music Live." Soon thereafter, I culled all the Christmas movies and musicals our family owned and placed them in a pile in front of the television. I haven't made much of a dent in it besides seeing "Miracle on 34th Street."
I was also blessed to be able to attend a couple Christmas concerts at local schools, namely Fillmore Central. Since I'm an alumnus, I looked forward to seeing which Mannheim Steamroller piece the high school band would perform this year, since it is tradition. It was "Carol of the Bells" and I was pretty much bouncing in my chair the entire time. The most heartening thing about that evening wasn't just the music, but the participation. Out of 566 students, in kindergarten through 12th grade at the school district, 480 are participating in music. That is 85 percent. All students, K-6, are involved in music. There are 71 students in seventh and eighth grade band. There are 94 students who participate in ninth through 12th grade band. I didn't get the numbers on the choirs, but they are just as impressive. Many students are involved in both band and choir.
I wish all of you a very merry Christmas. Take some time to listen to some Christmas music and let yourself be uplifted by the spirit it brings to your soul and holiday season.