*sigh* Really? A Xmas Song? OK, Just Barely

This is one of those songs that, although I associated it with Xmas when I was a young child, I have become less and less pleased with over the years. Oh, and I’ve heard and seen folks call it a “traditional cowboy song” (yes, “traditional” and “cowboy” *sigh*), because. . . well, Gene Autry. #gag

So, the third verse hints at a genuine Xmas theme, and the fourth verse actually quotes a snippet of scripture relating to the Nativity, but that is it.

Oh, and “Santy CLaus.”

Gene Autry has a lot to answer for. . . 😉
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Mitt hjerte alltid vanker (My Heart Always Wanders)

A recent Xmas music favorite of mine (OK, “last decade or so” is recent, isn’t it? 😉 ) is the Danish/Norwegian hymn, “Mitt hjerte alltid vanker.” Both the tune and the lyrics speak to me.

Here’s a beautiful rendition by Sissel:

But I’m strongly drawn to Tine Thing Helseth’s instrumental version:

As translations of lyrics go, this is rather rough–sacrificing both a good wedding with the meter of the tune and rhyme scheme–but I think this captures the heart of the meaning about as well as it can. I like the twist Tine Thing Helseth’s album featuring this piece takes on the title though: “My Heart Is Always Present.”

Mitt hjerte alltid vanker – English translation/version

My heart will always wander
To where our Lord was born,
My thoughts will always go there
And take on their true form.
My longing does belong there,
With the treasure of my faith;
I never shall forget you,
O blessed Christmas night!

Oh come, and I will open
My heart and my mind
And sigh with longing,
Enter, Jesus
For this home is Your own,
You bought it for yourself
So I will remain faithful,
With you here in my heart

I’ll willingly spread branches
Of palms around your bed.
For you and you alone
I will gladly live and die.
Come, let my soul find joy
In this moment of delight:
To see you born right here,
Deep inside my loving heart.

Playing Christmas Music Already?

For most of my life, until recently, Christmas music began at least mid-October, if not a bit earlier, because that’s when rehearsals for performances of Christmas music began in the volunteer music groups I have been a part of since early childhood. For a large part of my life, Christmas music began even earlier–sometimes soon after Easter, in fact–because in many cases I was responsible for the selection of material, rehearsal, production and direction of such programs, often for several different groups, and sometimes even in different venues with different organizations in the same year.

And a few times, such preparation begged for new music, or new arrangements suited to a particular program, which also fell to me to write or arrange.

So, folks who rail against Christmas music played before Thanksgiving really amuse me. I now listen to Christmas music for enjoyment, enrichment, and sometimes () with an ear to performance all throughout the year, whenever the mood strikes, for while Easter is definitely the single most important Holy Day for Christians, the celebration of the Incarnation is a celebration of the promise that Easter fullfills.

And so, when I listen to Christmas music–real Christmas music, not pop pap, these words always echo in the back of my mind somewhere:

Trees and lights and bells and carols,
Bright-wrapped packages piled high;
Winter’s sharp blow joins the heralds:
“Christmastime is nigh!”

Mailmen hurry; shoppers scurry;
Time is fleeing – Oh! So fast!
Parties gather, loud and merry,
Grander than in Christmas’ past.

Pause a moment to remember
That a Savior’s simple birth
Still stirs angel wings in susur’ –
“Peace to men; good will on earth!”

Now the Father’s hands that molded
The first Adam in the clay,
Gently ’round a manger folded,
Cradle a Baby in the hay.

So the Greatest Gift extended,
Gift of love and peace to all,
“God’s great love to man descended”
Calls us to a manger stall.

— “The Gift” ©1990 David W Needham

So, yeh, if it’s not pop pap (or pop crap like “Merry Christmas Baby” or other such crap songs), I’m all in for Christmas music year-round.

Educating Medical “Professionals”

Annual “permission slip” Dr. visit last week: ears so plugged up with gunk I almost didn’t mind having the same questions asked again. . . and again. . . by two different forms and three different people. #gagamaggot

At least something educational came of the visit, though. Nurse dropped in to ask the SAME QUESTIONS as on the form in her hand that I had just filled out and noted that she didn’t have to ask if I were depressed, because she assumed that anyone whistling a “happy” tune was in fine spirits.

“That’s a fallacious assumption,” I told her. “I’m simply whistling a tune I am listening to ‘between my ears’ in order to drown out the dreck y’all are playing on your sound system. It doesn’t mean I am ‘happy’ but that I’m listening to something better than that stuff that would gag a maggot.”

“Oh. So do you have feelings of depression?”

“Oh, yeh. That ‘music’ y’all arer playing makes me want to end it all.”

“Oh, OK. I’ll see if we can turn it down then.”

“Thank you. Now THAT makes me happy.”

*heh*

Music for Xmas, In Your Head

I’ve never really been satisfied with Gustav Holst’s CRANHAM as a tune for the following poem, probably because the words seem too quietly, gently powerful for the tune, but perhaps you’ll hear it differently in your mind’s ear as you read the words.

In the Bleak Midwinter
By Christina Rossetti

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Just another gripe about dumbed-down society

One of the worst failings of many contemporary performers attempting to sing classic songs (or really any songs at all, it seems at times) is that all too many can’t really hear music, let alone perform music. As Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau often said when asked about his facility singing both lieder and opera (thought by many to be vastly different musical genres), “Man muss sich anhören was die Musik sagt.” Those who can’t really hear what the music is saying turn in performances that are either bland and tasteless or inappropriate to the marriage of text and tune. IOW, MOST typical contemporary performing/recording “artists”–except when they “sing” pieces that match their musically-stunted tastes and abilities. But that’s pretty much OK with an audience that has even less ability to discern music.

Just another of the effects predicted by José Ortega y Gasset in The Revolt of the Masses (La rebelión de las masas).


Fischer-Dieskau: “One must listen to what the music says.”

Come, Emmanuel!

You may have to click through for this (because YouTube can be a prickly lil creep from time to time), but it’s well worth it.


And just for fun, and better than the Mannheim Steamrolloer and Trans Siberian Orchestra versions, IMO:

More Pop Xmas

I’ve said nice things about Kristen Chenoweth’s rendition of “The Christmas Waltz” elsewhere (and I promise to do so here as well, Real Soon Now), but she also pretty much nails “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”–apart from the tones she sings through her nose, but since the rest is really, really good, I can forgive that I suppose.