05 January 2011

"On the Twelfth Day of Christmas..."

...my good friends brought to me,
all their good wishes,
gifts for one and all,
some mistletoe,
a guardian angel,
gold and silver tinsel,
candles a-glowing,
little silver bells,
a shining star...
four colored lights,
three boughs of holly,
two candy canes,
and a song for the Christmas tree.

These are the gifts as enumerated in the Andy Williams alternative to the song. I quite enjoy this version, and the arrangement.

It has been a nice year for Christmas music. I replaced my original Mannheim Steamroller tapes with CDs, got the two newest Revels CDs, and managed to make some finds on my own, including "New England Christmastide #1" (I've had #2 for years) and the sequel to both of them, "Christmas in Tuscany" (more nice instrumentals)—"Christmas in Tuscany" and "New England Yuletide" were purchased at the Christmas store in Weston, Vermont—and Windham Hill's Christmas guitar collection.

By far the most surprising find was "A Very Merry Christmas," which I discovered in Borders whilst spending a birthday gift card courtesy the Butlers. It's a Canadian-produced album, and while "The Huron Carol" didn't show up on it, it's a nice assortment of instrumentals/vocals with several French songs, and an absolutely wonderful piece called "When the Winter Comes"—more of a solstice song than a Christmas one—sung by a strong-voiced baritone. My two least favorite tracks were the first and last, sung by Zoë Bentley, whose "A Very Merry Christmas" was "the surprise hit of the holiday season in Canada," according to the album cover. Ms. Bentley has an excellent voice, but she sings in that breathy, warbling style that seems to be popular today, so I wasn't quite enamored of her style.

Many of the tracks on this album are by the Canadian Brass, alone or with organ. Sometimes folks as what songs that make you feel Christmas, and Canadian Brass' arrangement of "The Sussex Carol" is just that. It's so spritely, but still mellow with the brasses. I want to jump into it and be cushioned and made happy by it.

I wanted to send a shout-out to Dish Network, which did something different with their own music this year; usually there is just one Christmas music station, but they gave us about six: a country, a Christian, a "mix" that was sometimes truly bizarre, a couple of others, and an instrumental channel that was all light jazz versions of Christmas songs and carols. I can contentedly wave farewell to the other channels, but I really miss that last one. It was so good for sitting and reading by the Christmas tree!

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