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Friday, December 24, 2010

Best of the season...

As the mean and green one learned, you don't need presents or decorations or even roast beast in order to merrify your Christmas. All you need are tunes. Our favorites are these...

The lyrics of this one change with every singer -- in some versions, Miss Fogarty even bears another name. This recounting is the best online, and it's the only one to include the all-important "capper" bit at the end.

Believe it or not, I look even dorkier than this guy when trying to dance a jig.

Now we get serious. This is my all-time favorite carol. I like the sad ones, and none go deeper than this. It is sung here by Aled Jones, the British singer who first came to fame in boyhood. The a cappella version by the Medieval Baebes is, perhaps, even more haunting. You can't listen to that rendition without picturing bloodstains in a moonlit snowscape. Happy holidays!

Someone should pass a law preventing any other singer from attempting this song. One can only imagine the impact this scene had when first shown, during wartime. The little girl here is Margaret O'Brien, the original gothling. True, she was not allowed to dress the part -- but in spirit, she made Wednesday Addams look like Tinkerbelle.

P, P and M never topped this.

Aled Jones sings a duet with his younger self.

This is a truly great song, although it is usually done all wrong. Here, we hear it sung properly -- solo voice, no instruments, no pretense or straining for effect -- just purity of tone and sentiment. The song was written in 1933 by musicologist John Jacob Niles, who collected the first snatches of it from an impoverished little girl named Annie Morgan, who lived in Appalachia.

Another one of my favorites, sung by the finest Christmas caroler of his time. (Sorry for the odd visual.)

It wouldn't be Christmas without Da-hoo Dor-aze. No previous singer has ever demonstrated such elan. You gotta love the big finish.

Still another version of the Coventry carol. Puts chills up and down your spine, dunnit? I had never heard of Hayley Wesetnra previous to a few days ago, but -- well, suffice it to say that Cannon has a new crush.

Believe it or not, this song premiered as part of a 16th century musical revue (or mystery play) called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, which may not have been the best title for a work about Herod's slaughter of the innocents.

THE finest "Pat-A-Pan" ever. This is the one where the carol seques into Bizet's L'arl├ęsienne suite. The opening theme of that suite was based on a much older Christmas carol about the magi.

What more can one say?

The "three tenors" version is beautifully sung and very, very, very weird. Do not start this video unless you are willing to shove your head into a big, steaming green bucket of bizarre and keep it there. Happy-a Chris-a-mas-a!

Sung by the voice of Tony the Tiger, Thurl Ravenscroft. Best name ever. What a wonderfully deep voice!

A Christmas melody sung by Julie Andrews, Placido Domingo and John Denver? Mind blowing. I didn't know that this existed until about ten minutes ago. Like no other singer I've ever heard, Placido Domingo makes the miraculous seem effortless.

I'll always love Julie.

Boy, this takes me back.

And now, from our classical annex...

The Troika from Prokofiev's "Lieutenant Kije" suite receives frequent Christmastime hearings. Americans usually call it "Russian Sleigh Ride" or something similar. There's a vocal version of this, although it is rarely preformed.

This piece was originally written as part of a film score for an early Russian sound film. Back in my college days, I spent weeks trying to track down a copy of that movie, to no avail; my sources all told me that Lieutenant Kije was a lost film. And here it is, although what I presume to be the sole surviving print is not in good shape. The opening montage is pretty damned trippy; it's a better marriage of image and music than anything you'll find in Eisenstein's later collaborations with the same composer.

The story later inspired an episode of M.A.S.H.

My attempts to do kazatskis are even dorkier than my attempts to do an Irish jig.

Speaking of dancing...! This is from The Nutcracker. Ms. Vandal "gets something in her eye" every time she hears it. That's the lovely Lesley Collier and Anthony Dowell.

Maybe I'm crazy to include the end of Beethoven's "Choral Fantasy" in this list -- but don'tcha think that revamped lyrics could turn this melody into a seasonal favorite? If "Greensleeves" can become "What Child is This?" every December, the Choral Fantasy can undergo a similar transmogrification. It's one of the catchiest melodies old Louis ever came up with. (Believe it or not, his friends called him Louis.)

Apparently, Beethoven wasn't crazy about the lyrics heard here, and encouraged his publisher to come up with something new. So we have the composer's permission to deck the halls with tunes by Ludwig...
Thanks, Joe. That was terrific-- my fave (and I'm surprised considering the competition)--"So This Is Christmas"; close second John, Judy, and Santiqo. Three Tenors--awesome, too.
What a beautiful gift!!! The Royal Ballet video brings back such wonderful memories, I was a big fan of Anthony Dowell.

Merry Christmas Joseph and family, I hope you have a prosperous and enjoyable 2011.

For those interested, here is the entire Nutcracker Ballet by the Royal Ballet (1986, I think?)

Ms. Vandal.
Thank you, Joe, for the cornucopia of sound. Truly, the spirit of Christmas is in the music.
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