The Music of Christmas

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The Music of Christmas

Postby Arwenel » Nov 24, 2013 4:00 pm

Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells
All seem to say 'Throw cares away!'
Christmas is here, bringing good cheer
To young and old, meek and the bold
Oh how they pound, raising their sound
O'er hill and dale, telling their tale
Gaily they ring while people sing
Songs of good cheer, Christmas is here
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!
On, on they send, on without end
Their joyful tone to every home


Music is probably one of the earliest signs of Christmas. After all, it's faster and easier to start playing "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night" on your iPod or CD player than it is to dig out the tinsel and start decorating cookies; especially since some of us never stop playing it. :P

So to open up this year's Christmas topics, it looks like we're starting with music!

For me personally, music has some of the strongest associations with the Christmas season. The lyrics i use to close out this post come from a Steven Curtis Chapman CD. Hearing it play in our house is usually the earliest sign that Christmas is upon us. I'm a fan of modern songs and century-old carols, solos and choirs with orchestra backing, electric guitars and a capella. What about you?

Something to get you started --

Something old: whether it's a song from yon ages you've discovered, an old family favorite, or just plain old fashioned.

Something new: a new discovery, a new take on an old song, or a new musician.

Something borrowed: something someone else got you listening to, or perhaps something you'd like to recommend to others.

Something blue: a sad song of Christmas, or a theory on why so many people love Christmas carols in a minor key.

Long ago, a baby was born in the night,
And as He let out His very first cry,
The sound was bringing hope alive.
Stars were shining, angels singing;
All heaven and earth was ringing:
Love is here, this is the music of Christmas.
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"My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations." - The Fault in Our Stars
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Re: The Music of Christmas

Postby fantasia_kitty » Nov 25, 2013 1:28 pm

Arwenel wrote:Something new: a new discovery, a new take on an old song, or a new musician.

Well... it just so happens that my current favorite music group Pentatonix posted a video of Little Drummer Boy this morning.


I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas music, but lately I've found that it's mostly due to the fact that most places you go around this time of year play Holiday music, rather than religious Christmas music... the former I'm still sick of from the previous year. :P But last year I started a Pandora station which has a lot more variety so I'm not hearing the same 10 songs over and over...and over and over... :P ;)
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Re: The Music of Christmas

Postby shastastwin » Nov 25, 2013 1:31 pm

I can actually cover all four of those suggestions with two albums from the same artist: To Drive the Cold Winter Away and A Winter Garden, both by Loreena McKennitt. I've enjoyed McKennitt's work before, but a friends recently gave me the majority of her albums, including these two which are Christmas/winter themed much like Enya's And Winter Came, which features a hauntingly cathedralic rendition of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" in both Latin and English. :D

The best new song on McKennitt's albums (for me, at least) is the opener on the first album "In Praise of Christmas," which lends the album its name from the chorus, which speaks of all the things people do this time of year "to drive the cold winter away." It's a great song, and perfectly in line with McKennitt's usual lilting Celtic themes for anyone familiar with her work.

She also has a great rendition of "Good King Wenceslas" on A Winter Garden, which is only 5 songs long and a bit more Christmas-focused than TDtCWA.
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Re: The Music of Christmas

Postby Impending Doom » Nov 25, 2013 5:45 pm

My Christmas tree, lights, and décor have all been up since November 1st. At my house the attitude is "I hope Halloween is over soon so we can put up the tree!". Like Fantasia Kitty I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas music. I enjoy listening to it, but I find it extremely annoying after I've listened to every single Christmas song in existence like 10 times. But there is one song I can never get sick of hearing. "The Christmas Shoes" by Newsong. I swear every time I hear that song I have Goosebumps all over my body and when the children's choir comes in I can't help but start crying. I probably look so silly sitting in the drivers seat balling my eyes out. :((


Here's something new. Its a cover of Carol Of the Bells by the metal band August Burns Red. It's quite good. :)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6o-p-OAWmsY
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Re: The Music of Christmas

Postby johobbit » Nov 26, 2013 1:42 pm

Thanks for opening this, Arwenel! Love that SCC song you posted. :)

Ahhh, Pentatonix, what amazing talent, goodness! And August Burns Red's arrangement of "Carol of the Bells" is very cool, Impending Doom! Thanks for those links, fantasia and 'ID'. :)

shastastwin, I have heard so many good things about Loreena McKennitt's albums, but have yet to listen. Must do!

I, too, get mighty weary of the repetitive, kinda pointless holiday songs, much preferring the much more meaningful carols, both old and new. So, here goes, linking to those that might not be quite as well known:

Something old: I have a fair few of these. ;;) Here is a condensed list of many of my tops, in no particular order:
*O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (along with the beautifully haunting original version of this carol, Steven C Chapman's version on "The Music of Christmas" is also well-loved in our home)
*Carol of the Bells
*I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
*Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
*Ding Dong Merrily on High
*In the Bleak Midwinter (oooh, those clear, pure young boy voices *goosebumps*) As well, Jars of Clay has a cool version of this, albeit very different from the choral.
*Huron Carol ('Twas in the Moon of Wintertime)
*Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming
*I Wonder as I Wander
*O Come, All Ye Faithful

Other essential "Christmas" music in our house is "The Nutcracker" and The Carpenters' oldie, but goldie, Christmas delights, plus Vince Guaraldi's Peanuts' Christmas jazz, mentioned below.

Something new: in the past few years, I have delighted in listening to the Piano Guys' Christmas (and other) renditions of well-known pieces. Their wonderful and unexpected Peanuts presentation is priceless. And Carol of the Bells for 12 cellos is wonderfully festive. Love Pentatonix's awesome version mega-much! This isn't that new, but we only bought it a few years ago and fell in love with it: Jars of Clay's "Christmas Songs". There are some really memorable pieces on that album.

As well, getting to know Barlow Girl's Christmas album has been a treat. Their gorgeous song, Hallelujah! Light Has Come is a favourite. Steven Curtis Chapman's Christmas music never fails to move me, although that's not new either, but certainly newer than those old, old carols. ;) Kutless' Christmas CD, "This is Christmas" is more like an EP, but has some grrrreat songs! Their version of "Mary, Did You Know?" is A-1! Probably my favourite rendition of that particular song.

Something borrowed: probably I would place Pentatonix here, thanks to fantasia introducing me to this extraordinarily talented a cappella group. And I don't know who first got us listening to Michael W. Smith ages upon ages ago (when our middle child was 4 or 5, and he is now 24!), but Smitty's first two Christmas albums are some of my most beloved for this season.

Something blue: minor is so unusually beautiful, especially for the thoughtful, pensive aspect of Christmas, of which I wish there was far more. The season sadly tends to be all hustle and bustle, and I love taking time to slow down and listen to music that focuses on the Christ child. Minor is wonderfully haunting, augmenting the already marvelous mystery of Emmanuel, God with us! My favourite minor carols? "Huron Carol" and "I Wonder as I Wander". While both "In the Bleak Midwinter" and "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" are in major keys, there is definitely a minor atmosphere to them as they periodically shift briefly into their relative minors, which I love.

We will definitely pop Christmas music on in the summer, if so desired. There is no limit to it in our home. ;)) (Twigs, don't read that. :P) Right now, I'm working on Christmas cards on a card table in our living room, right beside the CD player, which I turn up whilst writing the notes, reveling once again in the beauty, glory and holiness of this season.
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Re: The Music of Christmas

Postby daughter of the King » Nov 26, 2013 6:03 pm

I love Christmas music, as long as it's good Christmas music. ;) I usually prefer hymns to the usual pop songs, but there always exceptions depending on the artist.

Something old: Carol of the Bells is one of my absolute favorites, both to listen to and to sing. I like just about every single rendition of this one that I've heard. Pentatonix's version is one of my favorites, but Libera's is just really beautiful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVGKfDoANRA

Something new: Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God concert. It's been around for a while now, but I only discovered the artist and the concert a couple years ago (also his books!). And this year my family has tickets to the concert! :D The entire album is pretty amazing, but here is the first song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYv6RdQ1VmU

Something borrowed: I'm going to mention The Piano Guys too, because it was my sister who got me hooked on them. Their version of We Three Kings is awesome. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qu5RY94ldDc

Something blue: Every Advent hymn ever. Okay, narrowing it down a bit, my favorite is The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns, but I can't find a really good version of it. So instead I shall mention Lindsey Stirling's version of What Child is This: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1A3i0GATnRI
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Re: The Music of Christmas

Postby stargazer » Nov 27, 2013 12:00 pm

Great opening post!

I agree that, for me, music offers one of the most meaningful connections to Christmas. For the most part I prefer those songs focusing on the meaning of the holiday rather than secular ones. Listing favorite songs or performances would likely fill a book. ;))

Still, like fantasia I'm a little annoyed at the appearance of "Christmas Muzak" so early in the season. (One of the Twin Cities' 'oldies' radio stations - you know who you are! - switches over to Christmas music 24/7 late in November. That was before Thanksgiving this year, and that's just too early!)

Something old: We grew up with a collection of traditional Christmas songs performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Very traditional performances, quite impressive.

Since then I've acquired my own library of Christmas music. Customarily, I open the Christmas music season while traveling for Thanksgiving, often with Kathy Mattea's Good News collection (I especially like her performance of "Mary, Did You Know?") and Celtic Woman's A Christmas Celebration (the song "Christmas Pipes" is one of those 'secular' songs I quite like).

Another collection I often reach for is from local instrumental group Greenwood Tree (An Olde English Christmas), containing many classic songs in a medieval flavor with hammered dulcimer, bowed psaltery, whistles, etc.

Something new: I'm going to go with Piano Boys too. Good stuff!

Something borrowed: Growing up, our church choir performed a brief concert before Christmas Eve services. In the '80s they began including one of those 'blue' Christmas songs, "Night of Silence," sung in a round with "Silent Night." At first it annoyed me that they'd interrupt one of my favorite a cappella carols with this upstart new song, but I soon came to really like the combination.

It's hard to find a performance like that online, but the flavor of it can be heard here. (The round with "Silent Night" begins around 2:44 in the clip).

Something blue: Advent songs for sure, as dot observes. As an astronomer I wonder how much of the 'blue' comes from the long nights here in mid-northern latitudes, and the symbolism it might have in awaiting the arrival of the Child of Bethlehem. Or, from a more secular point of view, this season has such hype and huge expectations that sometimes it can't help but fall short, so those sad songs seem to fit in.
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Re: The Music of Christmas

Postby SnowAngel » Nov 27, 2013 5:23 pm

Finally it's time for the Christmas threads! :D Christmas music has been playing at my house since October 1st. Yes, that's earlier I know, but it's a tradition and we love Christmas music! We don't play Christmas music all the time yet, just most. :D After tomorrow, we will play just Christmas music with maybe an occasional regular CD mixed in (I just can’t stop playing Third Day's Revelation for a whole month, it’s too good). :)

Something old: My absolute favorite Christmas song is What Child Is This?, it's the best! :) I never get tired of listening to it, especially if it's Third Day's version although I do love Sidewalk Prophets' and Francesca Battistelli's versions too.

Something new: We have four new Christmas CDs this year: Merry Christmas To You by Sidewalk Prophets, Christmas Is Here by Brandon Heath, Duck The Hall: A Robertson Family Christmas, and It's Christmas by Mandisa.

Merry Christmas To You is great, I love it! My favorite songs from MCTY are Hey Moon, Hope Is Born This Night, Because It's Christmas, and Give Me Christmas.

Duck The Halls was a immediate favorite here, the younger kids absolutely love it! It's a fun album, Hey, it's got Si Robertson on it! ;) I love Missy and Jase's version of Baby, It's Cold Outside, Missy has a beautiful voice.

Even with all the new Christmas CDs over the last couple years, Third Day's Christmas Offerings is still my favorite of them all. It's has all of my favorite traditional Christmas songs as well as few originals, it's nearly perfect! :)



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Re: The Music of Christmas

Postby SarahHighland » Nov 30, 2013 6:32 pm

Living in Australia, I'm always intrigued by the prevalence of snow and winter-themed Christmas music on the radio at this time of year. Attempts to "Australianise" things to reflect that Christmas time is high summer here, are usually met with "cultural cringe".
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Re: The Music of Christmas

Postby Arwenel » Nov 30, 2013 11:29 pm

Probably about time i answer my own questions ... ;))

Something old: My family has played the same CDs for Christmas for years. There have been a few additions, but nothing has the same strong Christmas association as the "family classics". As i mentioned in the opening post, Steven Curtis Chapman's The Music of Christmas CD is one of the first ones i think of. There's also The New Young Messiah, which was done back in the 80s or 90s, where a bunch of then-popular Christian artists performed many songs from Handel's Messiah in their own style. It's an interesting CD; my favorite is 4Him's rendition of "The Trumpet Shall Sound".

Something new: Pentatonix just released this cover of "Little Drummer Boy" that is pretty awesome.

Something borrowed: For a couple years, various members of the family were involved in a local community chorus. A trans-state move put an end to that, but we were introduced to some pretty neat Christmas music from that group. Here is another chorus performing "Out of the Orient Crystal Skies", and this one, "The Glory of the Father", is a favorite of my mom's.

Something blue: There are plenty of sad Christmas songs, but for right now i'll just put forth Christmas in Heaven, covered by American Idol contestant Scotty McCreery.
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Re: The Music of Christmas

Postby stargazer » Dec 08, 2013 11:20 am

In a somewhat lighter vein, another song I like listening to each year is Straight No Chaser's version of The 12 Days of Christmas.
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Re: The Music of Christmas

Postby SnowAngel » Dec 09, 2013 6:25 pm

This is my other favorite version of What Child Is This?, but I don't have this one, so I listen to it on youtube. :)



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Re: The Music of Christmas

Postby SnowAngel » Dec 12, 2013 12:51 pm

This Is Christmas! Christmas music, or music in general, doesn't get any better. :D


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