What are the songs that make up your personal sound of Christmas? I got to thinking about this question, when I spotted a challenge to choose five different tracks for the season within certain categories. I found I had an “A” List which were my instinctive choices and a “B” List that came later after a bit of thought. By adding an extra two tracks I’ve created my Twelve Songs of Christmas. This is what I came up with:
- A classic Christmas song (by this I mean anything from before you were born).
A: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen-a quaint endearing song I have always loved although you hardly ever hear it these days. It makes me think of cards depicting Victorian dressed carol singers, standing in a pristine snow covered winter scene carrying lanterns.
B: Silver Bells-the Bing Crosby rendition of this “feel-good” song is a favourite.
2. A more modern Christmas song (anything from after you were born)
A: Walking In The Air by Aled Jones-ever since I was little I have associated music with pictures. So when Raymond Briggs animated film The Snowman was released for Christmas 1982, with a special song all of its own, it was the perfect blend for me. Although Peter Auty sang in the film, it was Aled Jones who had a big hit with the song in 1985.
B: Mistletoe and Wine by Cliff Richard-this just has everything.
3. A Carol (something to do with the birth of Christ-no need to be religious to do that!)
A: Holy Child (lyrics by Timothy Dudley-Smith)-I learned a few verses of this in 1978 for my primary school Christmas play. I was enchanted (and still am) by the tune and lyrics and yet I have never heard it anywhere else since! It begins Holy Child, how still you lie! safe the manger, soft the hay; faint upon the eastern sky breaks the dawn of Christmas Day. I finally tracked it down this year under the auspices of “unusual and rare carols”. I discovered it was printed in a hymn book called Carols for Today, and I think I’ve unearthed a recording of it available on iTunes.
B: Three Kings by Peter Cornelius-I heard this for the first time in my twenties at Keele University. I thought it was incredible and it sent shivers down my spine. My friend David Pye’s amazing rendition is STILL the best one I have heard.
- An instrumental/classical piece that makes you feel Christmassy
A: Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson-for me THE instrumental tune for the season. Mind you until my husband Rob played it in a concert in 2008 I had no idea what it was called or who composed it.
B: O Little Town by New World Orchestra-heard on The Christmas Chillout Album (2003). A more modern interpretation of the carol O Little Town of Bethlehem that is simply wonderful. Unusually for me I prefer this version to the traditional one and Cliff Richard put his vocals to an updated arrangement in 1998.
- A free choice-for if you couldn’t decide for one of the others, or if you have something else totally left-field to get in there!)
A: Abigail’s Song by Katherine Jenkins from the 2010 Dr Who Christmas special based on A Christmas Carol. I have always adored this Dickens tale and Dr Who did an interesting take on the story. Once again the scene from the TV accompanied by a hauntingly beautiful song just blended together so well, to create an incredible memory.
B: God Bless The USA (Proud To Be An American) from American Idol Season 2-My husband and I flew to New York on Christmas Day 2001. Our honeymoon in 1994 had been New York to San Francisco by Amtrak, and we had always said we would go back to both cities one day. “They will always essentially be the same” we said and then September 11th happened. As the festive season of 2001 approached, we knew we had to return to New York and support the city and the people, in the only way we knew how. So flying on NorthWest Airlines, I listened to the music from the “in-flight” entertainment menu and came across this song, which was produced as a result of the 9/11 atrocity. In a way it said everything about WHY we were going to New York and during our stay I found the song on CD. It has remained in my heart ever since that flight and has such a special resonance for me.
Extras: We Three Kings Of Orient Are-a lovely jaunty carol learned in childhood that makes me smile. Stay Another Day by East 17-the sound of the season in 1994 my first married Christmas.
So many memories, thoughts and feelings are wrapped up in these my Twelve Songs of Christmas, a veritable smorgasbord of sound that sings “Merry Christmas”.