At this time of year, many of us are wandering the shops trying to find gifts for family and friends. This year I have been particularly aware of the holiday music bubbling from the speakers. Michael Buble seems to be winning the race to our ears, as his music is everywhere: most retail stores, toy stores, tech stories, coffee shops. In a close second, seems to be holiday music from Glee, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Beiber and the Killers. As a lover of songs, I am excited when a new holiday album comes out. I like to buy music for myself and others at this time of year. My personal favorites so far are the new albums from Glee, Michael Buble, This Warm December (various), and Tony Bennett.
As I have been preparing for a holiday house concert, I have poured over several volumes of holiday music. I have old music that has been passed through the generations with wonderful notes in the margins. I also have collections of new holiday music that have new, modern takes on the holidays. But, the songs I love to play are the ones with memories attached — school pageants, musicals, family singsongs, concerts, etc. Every year I am reminded that some of the music is very difficult to play on the piano. I keep doing it because to me there is nothing better than gathering around singing some songs. Last night I discovered the original version of “I like to teach the world to sing” otherwise known as coke’s version called “perfect harmony”. The words are timeless and the sentiment is beautiful.
As for what’s on my playlist this year, I like to mix it up with some oldies. I like to be transported back to my Christmas past with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Bing Crosby (Boney M – for my dad). These songs take me back to my grandpa’s old farmhouse down on Lake Erie. We would arrive around dinner on Christmas Eve usually in a snowstorm. My grandpa’s farmhouse would be decorated and full of excitement. I would warm up my PJs on the radiators. My great aunts would arrive from Chatham with their car jammed with gifts and baking for everyone. Lawrence Welk reruns were still on TV in their full glory. Ah, youth!
As for my Christmas present, CBC is my go to for a great mix of holiday tunes – jazz, classical and pop. I am thankful for CBC radio as it brings in the season for me every year. I am always sad when January hits. The online music stores continue to reveal some of the new artists that I am loving, such as Jack Johnson’s new single “In the morning”. I love “Tracks in the Snow” by The Civil Wars, “Snow Globe” by Matt Wertz and “Christmas Without You” by Onerepublic. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals “Please Come Home for Christmas” is a timeless tune for anyone with glass of Bailey’s and a book. If you were wondering, I am asking Santa for an endless collection of the Beatles,
As for Christmas future, I would love to do a holiday album with my music friends some day. I tried my hand at writing a song for the season. It isn’t as easy as it looks. Nonetheless, I wrote about what Christmas means to me. The song is called the “Red Door” and it hasn’t been recorded. This song is about returning home to my parent’s house every year on Christmas eve in rain or snow. I would open that red door and smell a turkey and other festive foods. I would feel warm and welcomed. There would be candles burning, food overflowing and someone playing the piano. Whether or not there was a santa was irrelevant to me, it was all about being together in health and happiness. I am sure like other families, some members were absent or ill certain years, and that made us even more thankful for what we had.
A few years ago, the TSG – the Toronto songwriting guild – wrote a bunch of holiday songs. The songs were both funny and heart-felt. We sure learned a lot about each other that night. One song by Alec Steinwall poked fun at the grumpy people in malls, etc. (he needs to record this one too). I think we need to do this exercise again. It reminds us of what we like and don’t like about the season. I would love to see an album of original holiday songs or covers of lesser known song from some of my old books. After all, it seems the traditional songs have been done so well and so many times.
Holiday music is an amazing gift. It helps us connect to our wonderful past, opens our heart to the possibilities of the present and inspires our future. Have a wonderful holiday, and I hope there is a song that really moves you this season!!