Thursday, December 21, 2006

Welcome, Christmas! Come This Way!

It would hardly do to get this close to Christmas Day and continue to have a blog with a Scary Mary trailer and a song by the name of "That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!" posted. Time to right this ship.

Get thee behind me, Mary! Be gone, Sufjan! There's some new folks in town!

Below (and on the sidebar) we have a fantastic medley from the Boston Pops Orchestra circa 1959 - back when the venerable Arthur Fiedler was conducting. I can only assume they titled it 'A Christmas Festival' because 'JoytotheworldGodrestyemerrygentlemanThefirstnoel' was already taken. In other words, it's a smooshing together of all your favorite Christmas carols into one, with fantastic results. I wish more people did it this way. Every Christmas Eve, my ridiculously large extended family gathers at my parents house to celebrate the holiday, and at some point in the evening, we all squeeze into the living room to sing Christmas carols - or something like that. You see, the first couple of years we would sing about ten or twelve songs - in their entirety. In the years to follow, we would cut off a song here or there if we didn't deem it worthy enough for our family ('Good King Wenceslas' comes to mind, as does 'The Wassail Song'), and in the years to follow that, we started cutting off entire verses. Nowadays, we sing (or hum, if you prefer) just one verse from about five different songs before everyone breathes a big sigh of relief and we start the annual Christmas Grab (referred to in lesser households as a 'Yankee Swap') - which is what everyone would have rather done in the first place. My point is, I think my family could have taken a cue from the Pops. This is how it's done right.

Download: Boston Pops Orchestra - A Christmas Festival

Of course, this Boston Pops tune, being that it's performed by an orchestra and all, doesn't have any words. Some people like that better - I, among them. Christmas carol lyrics are among the most confusing in all of song. It's like a bunch of writers got together and held a contest to decide who could most sound like Yoda. Lines such as 'Let nothing you dismay!' and 'Bearing gifts we traverse afar' do nothing but make me scratch my head in befuddlement. Often times, they're vulgar and inappropriate too, as in the case of "What Child Is This?" where it's rather matter of factly asked, "Why lies he in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding?" I ask you, is this how we want to teach our children music? Nay, nay. These carol writers are heathens - the lot of them.

Except for Johnny Mathis. OK, OK, OK - he's not a carol writer... he just sings them. But, it just so happens that I have fantastic memories of his carol renditions. We didn't have many Christmas albums to listen to while decorating the tree when I was growing up, but we did own Johnny Mathis' 'Merry Christmas' - and that was the best (not a difficult accomplishment when you consider that the only other album we owned was 'A B.J. Thomas Christmas.') Johnny sang with such heart and enthusiasm that you couldn't help but get caught up in it all. It helps that he has a great voice, too. So, as an added bonus I've posted Johnny Mathis' rendition of Sleigh Ride. While not technically a Christmas carol, it certainly falls under the genre of Holiday Music and befits the season. It also is one of my sister's favorites because Johnny rather effeminately sings 'YOOOOOOO Hooooooo" towards the end, and she loved to sing along. This ones for you, El.

Download: Johnny Mathis - Sleigh Ride

The audio portion of our Christmas post has, regrettably, reached it's conclusion. However, don't despair! There's plenty more to come. The video portion is about to begin!

Now, being the loyal reader that you undoubtedly are, what would you say would be the first order of business when showing a Christmas themed video clip? What would my history suggest? What's that? Charlie Brown, you say? Good guess, amigo! I wrote an entire post about this special last year, so rather than blab on about it, I think I'll just refer you there. Oh, and post the entire thing. It's a classic, after all. (By the way, make sure to check out the scenes where the characters are dancing (at 8:43, 10:04 & 15:10.) High comedy. Linus and Sally can boogie. Oh, and Pigpen rocks too - just in general.)

Awwww, yeah. Charlie B. in da house. He's got to share the spotlight this time around though, because Christmas comes but once a year and all that jazz, but there's lots and lots of Christmas specials. Our next trip to Christmas past comes to us from Dr. Seuss. The good doctor and H.A. Rey (author of the Curious George books) have long battled it out for the honor of being my favorite. The winner is different depending on my mood (although, truth be told, Dr. Seuss emerges victorious 75% of the time.) One thing is certain, however, and that's the fact that Dr. Seuss has a far better Christmas special. In fact, of those two authors, he's got the only Christmas special - and he even got Boris Karloff to narrate it. Tough to beat. By now, you've surely realized that our next clip is 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' - the cartoon version, not that wasted piece of film starring Jim Carey. I dig the Grinch. He and Grumpy dwarf are the two cartoon characters I relate to most, but since Grumpy has probably always hated Christmas, whereas the Grinch hated it, but ultimately repented and found redemption, I guess I have to side with him - if only just for today. Plus, he's much more sinister and cruel. Have fun.

(Oh, and if you get bored or don't feel like watching the whole thing, might I suggest a drinking game handed down to me by my brother? It's called 'The Who Game' and it's very very easy to play. Simply, take a swig of your favorite alcoholic beverage every time they say the word 'Who.' Makes for some interesting moments when they burst into the 'Wa-who doraze' song. You'll be having fun in no time. Trust me.)

And, of course, we save the best for last. This next clip comes from one of my (and everyone else's) favorite films. It's not a cartoon, and it's not a half hour long special. Still, I can quote 80% of it from memory and not feel the least bit corny or ashamed. It's only on once a year these days (as opposed to the gazillion times a week it was on in the 80's. NBC bought it from the public domain which means no one else can air it now - jerks. Thank God for DVD's) but we should feel lucky and grateful it's still around. After all, what would Christmas be like without George Bailey?

Here's hoping you all have a happy and healthy holiday season. Here's hoping you all get lots of fun toys and presents. And, here's hoping you give more than you get.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

All my favorites in one blog! Thanks. I think I've seen It's a Wonderful Life at least 35 times....and I still get all weepy!

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who didn't know that the song in the Peanuts specials (not the main Peanuts waltz, the slow one with the woman singing) is also a recurring song in the soundtrack to "The Royal Tennenbaums?" This adds a whole new layer to one of my favorite movies. Good grief!

6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ZERO xmas carols at your parents' this year... how times have changed. we should have at least done the Twelve Days of Christmas, it's so funny to see people strutting around pretending to be French hens. Maids-a-milking is a lovely image too. Oh and I love A Christmas Festival. We played that in band every year for the holiday concert and I have it on my Xmas miX!

1:36 PM  

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