Category Archives: Holidays
Well, I was going to publish a CD review today, but it didn’t happen. So on this Saint Paddy’s Day, enjoy this fine live performance of a love letter to Dublin: “Rare Auld Times.” Brian Dunphy of the High Kings dedicates it to his father, who had passed away recently at the time of this recording. It’s a stellar vocal, and I love the way they just strum away with abandon on the guitar and
banjo sorry, not a banjo as I’m looking more closely at it. Stringed something-something. Anyway, this is the kind of spirited, rough-hewn music-making I love. I love the guy in blue just grinning and leaning back behind them in the background like, “Yep. Way to do it!”
Ring a ring a rosy
As the light declines
I remember Dublin City
In the rare auld times…
Music pastors, take note!
These are the real “crossover” songs of Christian music—appearing in movies, musicals, television shows, commercials, novels, and radio charts; affecting the education of countless generations; sung more frequently and knowingly and passionately in the public square than any modern song likely ever will [be sung].
For every 1 car that drives into your church 99 drive past—and I bet almost all love Christmas music.
Read more here.
Most people sing this carol during Christmastime, but technically it’s an Advent carol. For this reason, I am featuring it for the first week of Advent instead of waiting to add it to my “essential tracks of Christmas” (and yes, there are more of those on the way, as soon as I finish out this bone-crusher of a semester). There are many versions of this, but my absolute favorite is entirely instrumental. The artist is Casting Crowns, in an unexpectedly lovely turn from Melodee Devevo on the violin. Basically, forget everything you think you know about how Casting Crowns’ music sounds, and imagine something more like a set piece from Fiddler On the Roof. That’s a little closer. Enjoy this effective montage with The Nativity (not made by me, I would have fixed the aspect ratio first!)
…I thought turkeys could fly.
To the boys of Pointe du Hoc, a toast. To the men who took the cliffs.
To the men who slogged through mud and blood, who gathered up and buried the remains of worthy comrades, a toast.
To the flyer boys who piloted their ships towards danger, laughing it to scorn, a toast.
To the ones who went to tend the wounded under fire, a toast.
To the one who waited patiently for the day when he would come home running to the arms of his best girl, a toast. To the one whose sweetheart couldn’t wait, a toast.
To the 17-year-old who hit the beach with ashen face and trembling knees, yet crawled towards the sound of death, a toast.
To all fathers, sons and brothers who have fought and bled on a distant shore, in a war they may or may not have understood.
To the fathers, sons and brothers who still fight and bleed on a distant shore, in wars they may still not understand.
To all those who have left us as boys and come back as men, I raise my glass and softly call: “Goodnight. And joy be with you all.”
First, my inner Anglican has to apologize—technically this final track is not a Christmas song but an Epiphany song. However, I’ve attempted to appease my Anglican spirit by pushing this to the very end of my series, looking forward to Epiphany as we say goodbye to Christmas.
Many of you are probably unfamiliar with this hymn, but you’re no doubt quite familiar with another carol written by the same author, William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898). It was he who gave us the classic “What Child Is This?” Interestingly, I read that he wrote many of his hymns confined to his bed as a young man with a near-fatal illness. “What Child Is This” came from that period. This song came from an even earlier period of illness, when he was only 22. Strange to think that we could have been brother and sister. It certainly goes to show how the quality of writing in the younger generation has declined down through the years. Just take a look at the last verse:
Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way.
And when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds thy glory hide.
You might recognize the melody. It was written a few decades before Dix by Konrad Kocher and is better known as the tune to “For the Beauty of the Earth.”
This recording by the Haven of Rest Quartet is the only professional “artist cut” of the hymn that I know of (i.e., besides faceless chorale singers). It’s very hard to find, so I put it onto my Youtube channel. The quality could be better, but the arrangement shines through despite the graininess. The album it comes from (Sounds of Christmas) is one of my all-time favorite Christmas records, and I think you’ll see why I consider this track essential. Trivia tidbit: Long-time member and arranger Walt Harrah sings the tenor solo. Harrah is the writer of the David Phelps sugar stick “No More Night.”
Enjoy, and thanks for coming along on this series with me!
It’s the penultimate day of our series, and I have saved the best for near-last! “O Holy Night” is quite possibly my favorite Christmas carol, but it’s hard to do it justice. On the one hand, it really needs the no-holds-barred, all stops pulled out treatment. On the other hand, singers with the technical chops to get it done vocally are tempted to lapse into mere vocal showboating (paging Mariah Carey, Mariah Carey).
In my opinion, David Phelps’s version walks that fine line perfectly, resulting in a recording that is definitely a must for any Christmas collection. Anthony Burger on piano is certainly an added benefit. Without further ado, I present…
David Phelps’s “O Holy Night”
Mannheim Steamroller’s last entry in this series was their rockin’ “Good King Wenceslas.” But Mannheim Steamroller can do much more than just rock out. This closer from their debut album is far and away their best mellow cut. The background “oooohs” are clear and unpretentious behind the haunting opening bars on piano. Then around 2:00 is where the arrangement really transcends, at the entry of the violin. The rest is pure magic, with dry ice at the end to remind us that yes, this is still the 80s.