By Hadleyblogger Drew
Almost every area I know has at least one or two radio stations that have been playing nonstop Christmas music since Thanksgiving (if not before). On most of these stations it's the only time you'll ever hear them play Bing Crosby, Andy Williams or Ray Coniff. You could be forgiven for thinking these guys never did anything but Christmas music (although they did). And yet if you listen to any of these stations for any length of time you'll be amazed at all the dreck they play. I used to think it was impossible to ruin a Christmas carol; now I know better.
Terry Teachout has a wonderful list of his favorite Christmas records. I've heard most of them, agree with many of them (although I still prefer Bing's version of White Christmas), need to check out some of them (especially Laud to the Nativity by Respighi), and am glad to see some of my underrated favorites recognized by others (particularly the stunning O magnum mysterium by Morten Lauridsen). You could do a whole lot worse than making this one of your Christmas playlists.
Over at First Things, Michael Linton has a nice piece on the many versions of that Christmas favorite, Handel's Messiah (minus the distractions Steve mentioned). (Of course, we all know that Handel actually wrote this piece for Easter, but in this case the popular will rules.) Hard to argue with any of Linton's picks (I'm always partial toward Robert Shaw, even though the copy in this house is by Sir Georg Solti, no piker he), but I really am curious to hear Thomas Beecham’s 1959 recording of Eugene Goossens’ orchestration. Listen to the description:
It’s a pure nightmare. Goossens adds trombones, tubas, harp, expanded winds, and full percussion. Beecham quickens and stretches tempi in ways that give musicologists hives. Many people hate it (and hate folks who like it!), but it’s somehow splendidly Handelian, and to hear Jon Vickers sing the tenor arias is a revelation.
Sounds like a glorious mess, doesn't it? As he says, buy the others, but buy this one too.
So wherever you are tonight or tomorrow, I hope the choir sings like angels, Der Bingle lives on your stereo, and the music of this beautiful season never stops ringing in your ears. And on this Christmas Eve let's all say a prayer for peace on earth, peace in our own hearts, and blessings to all.