Last week I thought I’d bring a little pre-Christmas spirit into the Treehouse by tuning the radio into a local station that starts playing Christmas music somewhere (I think) around Remembrance Day (and of course cuts it right off again after Boxing Day). I got paid right back for my foolishness, because the first song that came on was “Christmas Shoes.” If you’ve never heard that one, it’s on the top of most of the “worst Christmas songs” lists along with “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” It was enough to send me running back to CBC Radio, which (thankfully) builds up slowly to Christmas, and provides us with unlimited wonderful concerts and CDs and soloists and choirs and jazz and even funny stuff sometimes. And very limited doses of things like Mel Torme. (And no Christmas Shoes.)
If you want some luminous, knowledgeable, mouth-watering descriptions of Christmas CDs, check out these posts at The Beehive and The Common Room, or even Tim’s Mom’s somewhat bashful contribution here. Like Tim’s Mom, I’m a little stuck on the familiar and sentimental and not as discerning over which orchestra sounds the best. And the CDs I like aren’t necessarily the ones we own (that’s why the radio gets played a lot this month). We do have Loreena McKennitt’s “To Drive the Cold Winter Away” (recommended at The Beehive); Liona Boyd’s “A Guitar for Christmas”; and “An Oscar Peterson Christmas”, all of which would get good musical marks from those who know about those things.
From a time (pre-Treehouse) when I shopped more often at a Christian bookstore, I have tapes (not CD’s, of course) of First Call’s a cappella “An Evening in December: Volume Two” (Volume One got chewed up by an evil tape player years ago), and Sparrow’s 1985 “25 Songs of Christmas: Volume Two." (Volume One, I think, got loaned out instead of eaten.) And Evie: Christmas Memories, just for fun. (Didn’t every churchgoing kid during the ‘70's have to march in at least once to “Come on, Ring Those Bells?”)
Crayons likes "Anne Murray's Christmas," because she's fallen in love with "Do You Hear What I Hear." (That means that Mama Squirrel has to warble her way through it at bedtime as well.)
We also have several dollar-store-variety collections of carols, some of which are better than others. One of my favourites is the instrumental “German Christmas: Candlelight Hours”; no artists’ names are given, but it’s a quiet, peaceful tape that makes me think of snow falling. [2006 update: That link is broken, but this one takes you to an MP3 download site, with previews. Check out Leise Rieselt der Schnee (and yes, there are some awful typos in the German there).]
And you know what? Much as I’d like to own more really good Christmas music...I think we’re doing all right with what we have, filled in with the beautiful CBC extras. I did pick up a tape of Kathleen Battle’s “A Christmas Celebration” at a thrift shop this month, and that was nice. I’d like to get her CD with the guitar accompaniment that’s mentioned in the Beehive post. (Mr. Fixit, are you reading this?) But the most beautiful music I can think of is our family singing together; not because we’re very good, but because we are singing together.