December Music

We have sung some hymns in church set to Welsh melodies lately, and Husband says he gets the shivers whenever he hears them. He attributes this to having some Welsh ancestors, and thinks the melodies tap at some deep primordial aspect of his collective makeup.

I tend to be more opinionated rather than shivery over church music. I like Advent music in church. One isn’t supposed to have Christmas music in church until Christmas. Advent music tends to be quiet and contemplative, which is fine with me. I find my teeth on edge when our church music gets too boisterous or when we sing hymns that have a lot of lyrics in the first person. How Great Thou Art is an example. Our Worship and Music director really dislikes Blessed Assurance, but was gracious enough to sing it the other day at the funeral of a 103 year old parishioner. Our recently retired choir director couldn’t stand Amazing Grace and refused to perform it or sing along when the congregation sang it. We have one song coming up on our December choir schedule that sounds like it should be in an old time western movie. The left hand piano accompaniment rhythm sounds like a horse ambling slowly on the trail. The congregation has loved it when we have sung it other years. I try to think of funny lyrics to it while we practice it, which reduces my irritation.

I really do like to sing in our church choir, and we have some fun performances coming up this month. Husband will play a duet on his cello on Christmas Eve with a flute player. We will do A Festval of Lessons and Carols like they do at King’s College on December 18. We won’t sing How Great Thou Art.

What gives you the shivers? What December music do you like? What December music do you loathe?

56 thoughts on “December Music”

  1. Rise and Shine, Baboons,

    I will start by being Negative Nellie—the song that is overplayed at Christmas and every other day of the year is “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. That song is covered by every singer on earth, usually not that competently and I give it a thumbs down on every algorhythm-based service on which I have a choice. When I used Spotify in my waiting room a few years ago the algorhythm played it three times in a row AFTER I gave it a thumbs down, so I did not use that list again, then cancelled the Spotify subscription. Rant.Over.

    I have really reduced my Christmas music intake because after nearly 70 years of hearing it, I am weary of it (except for John Denver and the Muppets and the Roches Christmas Album). I also stopped sending Christmas cards for the same reason. One day I was just done with it. Go figure.

    I try not to go negative on these posts. I guess today is the day.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Interesting, Jacque. I’m getting tired of Christmas music too (except for a few new songs I’ve heard and a small group of gems that I’ll always love. We’ve also stopped sending Christmas cards. I don’t mind getting a well-written family-update Christmas letter/card from some folks, but most seem like desperate attempts to show how normal and wonderful the writer’s family is.

      Chris

      Liked by 3 people

    2. It seems like lots of people, even some choirs performing it, haven’t really listened to the lyrics of “Hallelujah.” It’s not an easy song to sing, but it’s a great song in the mouths of performers who get it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I was in Taiwan last Sunday, at a Taiwanese church, where someone had chosen How Great Thou Art. Most of us were singing in Taiwanese, but I know that there were half a dozen or more in the congregation using an English translation of the hymnal that I’d prepared in 2010. When I did that one, I recalled that How Great Thou Art is really a Swedish hymn, so I found a different English translation of it and put that in. I was just tired of the version that I’d been singing since I was a child.

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    1. The openings notes for that song are identical to the opening notes from “Don’t Get Around Much, Anymore”. I was at a workshop with Mr. Ylvisaker, the composer, and he pointed it out. I don’t like it, either.

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  2. Oh, I’d love to pick your brain about choir music, Renee… so many questions! For one, what’s the name of the “western movie” song??

    Something has given me chills lately, if I could just catch it…
    Icelandic Hymn is one that is inexplicably moving to me – I first heard it on Classical MPR right after Dale and JimEd signed off, and have recently been able to download it from internet.

    If we could just get rid of the cheesy or jazzy versions on some of the radio stations that started playing in November, I love lots of Christmas music,… Ukranian Carol (Carol of the Bells), I love my Joan Baez Christmas album, Amahl and the Night Visitors, some medieval carols like Rio Rio Chiu… this could go on for a while. I taped the Christmas Revels back in the day, and I’m glad because I don’t think Classical MPR plays it any more on the Solstice…

    Not fond of I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, but I don’t mind I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus… Who knows how we get our preferences??

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I only listen to my own selected music. Over the years before that I learned to hate many Christmas songs, such as Drummer Boy and 12 Days of Christmas. I do like Hallelujah but I never play it this time of year. Not by Cohen. I should look up who I like. Last year I did not listen to Christmas music, doubt I will this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you, Clyde, on listening only to music I have selected myself. “Little Drummer Boy” is among my least favorite Christmas songs, but I’ve seen some very fun and creative performances of variations of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” that I really like.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. A rousing rendition of Mary Had a Baby: I recently found online this one from an old PHC show, done by GK and the Hopeful Gospel Quartet (Robin & Linda Williams…)
    Once you click on the link, there is a green bar, click on 1:09 (one minute 9 seconds) – it’s worth the trouble.

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  5. *Gulp!* Sorry, Renee, but “How Great Thou Art,” as performed by Sam Robson, gives me more chills than any song save for Eva Cassidy’s “Over the Rainbow.” However, I never considered HGTA to be a Christmas song.

    To each their own. That’s why there are so many millions of songs, plays, books, art, and other options–something for everyone.

    In case anyone is ambivalent about HGTA, here’s Robson’s version to help you decide:

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 3 people

  6. My roommate can’t stand “Hallelujah” either. I developed a loathing for “Silent Night” one year when *every* TV show we watched used it in their holiday episode (must have been in the 1980s, since I haven’t watched live-action sitcoms since my mom died). I dislike “Away in a Manger” too, because we had to sing it so much in Lutheran parochial school. Interestingly, they now think “Away” is American in origin (from the 1800s) and was falsely attributed to Martin Luther.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. I am prone to music fatigue and reach the point where I never want to hear a particular song or a particular performer ever again. That is certainly true with Little Drummer Boy, Twelve Days of Christmas and Halleleujah.

    I have no special interest or response to choral music and gospel music.

    For many years it has been my practice to seek unusual or nontraditional Christmas music as a defense against the onslaught of overplayed numbers. Over the years I’ve had Christmas albums by R. Carlos Nakai and Ottmar Liebert as well as numerous George Winston and Celtic Christmas albums. Some of those have gone the way of obsoleted technology but I still maintain a playlist of December music, much of it instrumental, often jazzy, most of it music I would be unlikely to hear elsewhere and all of it a no Drummer Boy zone.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I have several native flute albums which I use as walking music, two by Nakai. I have a few of chant especially of chant blended with choral. These all give me peace when I need it. On Amazon music, albums come and go for me, but Nancy Griffith, Mary Chaplin carpenter and those albums stay. We had a very good but overbearing choir director in my school from whom I learned to hate choir music. Now about half of my Amazon music at the moment is Choir music, much of Bach, but otherwise very peaceful or unusual uses of the choir. My son finds odd things.
    Clyde

    Liked by 2 people

  9. The older I get, the less I enjoy listening to Christmas music 24/7 for weeks on end. If stations waited until the week or two before Christmas to start playing it, I would be much happier.

    There is a lot of Christmas music that I don’t like anymore – mostly because it gets overplayed. That said, there are still a number of songs that I do like. For years one of my favorite Christmas albums was “Christmas Portrait” by the Carpenters. Karen had a voice like no others and her renditions of “He Is Born” and “Merry Christmas, Darling” are gorgeous. Even though “Little Drummer Boy” is WAY overplayed and I don’t care for it anymore, Linda Eder’s version of that and “Do You Hear What I Hear” are, again, gorgeous.

    I never tire of the St. Olaf Choir’s Christmas concerts – simply stunning every year. The Dale Warland Singers also put out exquisite Christmas albums.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. The Brits have many wonderful traditions, this one in particular appeals to me.

    The phenomenon known as the Sheffield carols grew out of the banning of carols that weren’t deemed pious enough to be sung in church. Rather than abandoning their well-loved carols, people in the Sheffield area began singing them in their local pubs. This is a tradition that is still very much alive. Starting on the Sunday after Armistice Day, and every subsequent Sunday until Christmas, people gather at lunchtime at the local pub to sing these ancient carols. Many of the carols have both melodies and verses that are particular to a certain pub or area. Here’s an example from the Royal in Dungworth near Sheffield:

    Liked by 3 people

        1. Apparently a whole new initiative grew out of the Sheffield tradition. The Festival of Village Carols does not replace the pub singing, both are ongoing and thriving. This video is three and one half hours long, so I don’t expect that many (if any) baboons will watch or listen to it the whole thing. It does contain a lot of interesting information, and despite poor audio and video quality, I find it delightful and informative too. I might add that this was recorded in November of 2020 at the height of the Covid pandemic, hence the zoom presentations of the various performers:

          Liked by 1 person

  11. I don’t listen to Christmas radio anymore. Seems as if they only have 20 songs and they play them over and over. And two them I seriously detest (Santa Baby and Last Christmas).

    But I do like most of the other songs that you all have mentioned-probably because I don’t hear them repeatedly. In fact, looking forward to getting home (in airport right now) so I can get out my Dale Warlands, my Roches, Dixie Chicks, Burl Ives and, of course, Cantus!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Pretty sure you all know my feelings on Christmas music.

    “Holiday Concert” at the college Thursday this week. At least it’s only one night and not 4 like the old days.

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  13. I would put in a vote for Hallelujah as a fitting song for December, or for that matter, forJanuary, February, March, April, May June, July, August, September, October, or November, if the performer is true to the song’s spirit. I don’t remember if Jeff Buckley’s version was the first I had heard, almost thirty years ago, but it was certainly the one that astounded and enchanted me. According to Wikipedia, Buckley’s version of the song was inducted into the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. Agree with PJ, I don’t think there’s a reason for a choral version of it. It has to be the broken hallelujah, or don’t bother.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The tune THAXTED, by Gustav Holst, almost no matter what lyrics are put to it, thrills me. Welsh tunes are likewise strong and I love them. If you would like to see the advent lessons set for singing, and, perhaps, use them during this season, I’ve done that at http://www.adventinsong.wordpress.com If you subscribe to it, you’ll get another singable bit of Advent through the end of that season, and additional daily stuff through Christmas and all the way to the Feast of the Epiphany, when you can “go back” to good old http://www.aboksu.wordpress.com and get a new lectionary based song every day. I’ve written things out through Holy Week, and taken a break, but I’ll get back to it soon enough.

    The advent song blog contains a few things recently written, and too many that I did as long as 15 years ago. I hope I’ve gotten better, especially when it comes to choosing the tunes (which are all from Public Domain hymns, so you can use, or ignore, them at no peril.

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  15. The nature of my work means I’m usually submerged in Advent & Christmas music from September, so almost anything that hasn’t been done to death is likely to get kudos from me. I did, however, discover this year that I can’t stand Bizet’s L’Arlésienne (used for ‘March of the Three Kings’). The entire flute section about threatened to strike over that one.

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