I downloaded a free iTunes Christmas sampler this morning (but deleted a ghastly version of jingle bells by Barry Manilow). I also bought "Broadway's Carols for a Cure," the 11th version of a CD set of Christmas music recorded by various Broadway casts. Some do carols straight (the Lion King cast singing "Little Drummer Boy" is fabulous), some add their own version of traditional carols (like the cast of West Side Story doing "Cool Jingle Bells" which is very clever). some do songs I've never heard before which may or may not have been written for that particular cast. I enjoyed the CD set so much I ordered the 2008 version as well.
When I added all the songs to my iPod, I discovered I have more than 10 hours of Christmas music (edited so that there aren't more than one or two versions of each song). It only takes 8 hours to drive to Santa Barbara! This doesn't include the Christmas music I have on record that I haven't been able to convert to mp3 because I don't have the machine that will do that. I miss some of those records, especially Mike Douglas.
What can I say? I love Christmas music. It's not really Christmas until we've played the Bing Crosby Christmas record. After that, it could be any other music, but we have to start with Bing's "Jingle Bells" and play it all the way to "Mele Kalikimaka." Christmas without Bing and the Andrews Sisters would be...unthinkable!
When the kids were young and living at home, we would usually go out to a tree farm to cut down our own Christmas tree and we always sang Christmas carols on the ride home again.
There's something about Christmas that makes us break out in song. I can't think of any other time of year when you are invited to join with another group of non-professional singers just for the joy of singing together.
Over the years we have gone caroling walking down the street, holding candles, stopping at the homes of friends to sing them a song or two (and invite them to join in the singing).
Many years we went with one group or another to visit a local nursing home to sing. I remember one year when two groups showed up at the same time and the nursing staff had to send one group down one hall and the other group down a hall in the opposite direction. We were all singing pretty much the same songs and you could often hear us sounding like dueling choirs.
(It's always sad that it takes Christmas to get a group out to a convalescent hospital. Why don't we think about putting together groups of people to sing patriotic songs or novelty songs or something else during the middle of the year?)
I think my favorite experience caroling was on a San Francisco cable car, where we rode the length of the cable car line, ending at the Buena Vista cafe, where Irish Coffee was born, to all indulge in a nice Irish coffee to warm up again.
With 10 hours of Christmas carols at my fingertips, it's difficult to pick out my ten favorites, but I thought I'd give it a shot. In no particular order:
SILVER BELLS was always my favorite when I was growing up. The Bing Crosby version, sung with someone I've never heard of, Carol Richards.
HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS would have to be right up there, and of course it would have to be the Judy Garland version.
DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR? by the Carpenters. Karen Carpenter had the most clear, gorgeous voice and I love this version of that song.
THE PEACE CAROL by John Denver and the Muppets is lovely.
IL EST NE LE DEVIN INFANT by the Trapp Family Singers, 'cause what list would be complete without something by the Trapp Family Singers on it.
THE SANTA RHUMBA by the Rhythm Kings is a song very few people have ever heard of, but it's a favorite around here. It was on a compilation CD made by local bands. ("Oh No...Santa's in the bag now...and he's dancing with a cute little number...")
THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY - I think the Harry Simeon Chorale was the first version and I love it. I also like the quirky Mannheim Steamroller version and loved the duet of Bing Crosby and David Bowie. But my new favorite version might be that one by the cast of the Lion King.
CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE - the recording from the original Peanuts cartoon, "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Meaningful on all sorts of levels.
BLUE CHRISTMAS by Johnny Matthis, for anybody who is missing anybody at Christmas.
and of course THE GRASSY KNOEL, by Lawsuit (how could I not put a song written by my own kids on the list?
The Christmas Carol I don't ever, ever want to have to hear again: Feliz Navidad.May you get together with someone you love and sing a few songs this year!