Sunday, December 24, 2006

Listening to Christmas

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.


  1. Great reading.

    I cannot believe how much "dreck" can be played when I was shopping at a store to purchase a new mailbox (we had ours destroyed in a rash of incidents in the neighbourhood) when a comment I heard struck me.

    And why is it even "Christian" artists are doing tours featuring winter songs instead of Advent songs about the Birth of the Saviour? For someone whose brain is heavy on hearing Ann Benson (a soprano forced into an alto role for one performance) solo on "O That Thou Tellest Good Tidings to Zion" and after sitting down following "Hallejuah," hearing my voice teacher on "I know that my redeemer liveth", all of what is being called "Christmas music" on the radio pains me!

    A friend on the Hard Starboard site exhorted she does not listen to "Christmas" music on the radio because the Far Left which controls the media has been playing continuously one annoying song from an artist who has been dead 26 years and his wife which has been used because it is a celebration of the Left's coup d'├ętat of our government. Of course the Left is strongly pro-Usama and anti-troops, so you can see they are cheering the victory of the U-Creep and his Cronies in November.

    I have to agree. When I can keep my brain away from the drivel of the winter music by listening to news/talk radio or to classical sacred pieces for Christmas, you can be assured the meaning is evident.

  2. Merry Christmas, Hadleys and Hadley Bloggers!


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