Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A PAIR OF CHRISTMAS ITEMS OF INTEREST
(Not so ranting this time)

The Liberty Counsel is our friend!

The Liberty Counsel, a legal group that supports religious liberties and (like I mentioned in the previous article) is like the anti-ACLU, has a FREE legal memo that can be issued to anyone who wants to ban CHRISTMAS! (Man, I just love putting the word CHRISTMAS in all caps - in the words of Bugs Bunny, "ain't I a stinker!").

It's great that groups like this will stand up for CHRISTMAS! And they're WINNING battles! That's a good thing!

My mom's old CHRISTMAS record collection

Here is my attempt to recall the old CHRISTMAS record collection that my parents once had when they had a working stereo with a turntable. A lot of these were really cool. Christmas music WAS Christmas music in those days (60's, 70's) and not Christmas muzak like these "24/7 holiday stations" play now. The records are no longer there *sigh*, so I will attempt to describe what I can remember to the best of my recollections.

Tennessee Ernie Ford - Sing We Now of Christmas
The country/gospel singer with that cool deep bass voice (I'm a bass too, so I can relate), who looks a bit like Ronald Reagan in his early days (LOL), put out eleven tracks, backed by a chorus. He opens the album with the title song, using the French tune NOEL NOUVLET. Other really cool highlights include his own rendition of Angels We Have Heard on High, a setting of Caroling, Caroling that would put Johnny Mathis' version to shame; a really cool arrangement of The Twelve Days of Christmas (in B-flat) which has a soprano section squealing "four calling birds", tenors taking "three French hens", followed by TEF dropping to low F on "two turtle doves" - really cool. There's also this tune called Little Grey Donkey, in which, part-way through the song, he gives a cool little story (spoken). I forgot the story he told, darn! My favorite on the collection is the opener for side two: Good King Wenceslaus. Again he takes his bass voice and applies it to verses 2 and 4 quite nicely. It's not operatic. It's light, but reverent.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Sings Christmas Carols
Of this album, I will admit to only recognizing a small handful of the 14 tracks as standard carols. Joy to the World, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (I love the "echo effect" on the Rejoice, Rejoice at the refrains), O Holy Night, Away in a Manger, and Silent Night are those tracks. The tune for Away in a Manger is not the Muller tune used in most hymnals and missalettes, but the Kirkpatrick tune found in GIA's Worship II (now out of print) and Worship III hymnals. It is absolutely gorgeous. There are many good choral works in here (none in Latin - dang!). Watts' Nativity Carol is beautiful. There Shall a Star from Jacob Come is a lovely anthem which ends with a text I don't quite remember, but is set to the tune WIE SCHON LEUCHTET.

Mitch Miller and the Gang - CHRISTMAS! Sing along with Mitch!
Though only the basic standard harmonies of the 14 standard familiar carols on this album, it was still a great album. Away in a Manger was set to yet another different tune: FLOW GENTLY, SWEET AFTON. My absolute favorite on the album: Coventry Carol. Only one secular song - Deck the Halls.

The Great Songs of Christmas (Albums three and four)
These were part of a Columbia Special Products project, and presented by Goodyear. A new album was offered nearly each year, with album one in 1961, and album seven in 1970. My parents had albums three and four, each album had roughly 20 cuts sung by 12 different stars/groups. Among those were Mitch Miller and the Gang, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, violinist Isaac Stern (he did two settings of Ave Maria - Schubert's on album three, Gounod's melody over J.S. Bach's Prelude in C on album four), the Brothers Four (maybe not in church, but cool to listen to on my mom's stereo), the New Christy Minstrels, Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, pianist Andre Previn, Robert Goulet. Mary Martin appeared on album four with her tenor version of Silent Night, while Julie Andrews sang the same on album three in her sweet mezzo-soprano voice that was beloved by many.

Your Favorite Christmas Carols (Volume 2) and Your Favorite Christmas Music (Volume 4)
Another collection by various stars, presented by Firestone, on their own label. This too was a seven-volume collection. Some volumes were also presented as Your Christmas Favorites and The Voices of Firestone presents Your Christmas Favorites.
Volume 2 contained songs performed by Rise Stevens, Brian Sullivan, the Columbus Boychoir, and the Firestone Orchestra and Chorus. The album opens up with the first couple of lines of O Holy Night sung by the Boychoir, then are joined by the Chorus with a rousing O Come, All Ye Faithful. Side Two opens with the Chorus singing Hallelujah! from Messiah by Handel. The album's finale is The Twelve Days of Christmas sung by the entire cast, with something for all the stars to shine with. Again, very rousing!
Volume 4 starred Dorothy Kirsten, Julie Andrews, Vic Damone, James McCracken, and the Young Americans. Ms. Andrews' three cuts included The Christmas Song, Little Jesus Sweetly Sleep (sung to the tune ROCKING, a tune found in Pilgrim Hymnal, a hymnal once used widely in the United Church of Christ, and The Bells of Christmas.
In both albums, many of the tracks were solo artists joined by the Chorus (Volume 2) or the Young Americans (Volume 4). Some were grouped as medleys, so your 12 cuts in Volume 2 and 14 cuts in Volume 4 turned out to be 20+ different songs in each Volume.

RCA Victor Presents Music for the Twelve Days of Christmas
Another multiple-artist collection with an even balance of the sacred and secular. Three choirs featured here: the Ralph Hunter Choir (The Twelve Days of Christmas - the first setting I ever heard of this), the Norman Luboff Choir (The Little Drummer Boy), and the Robert Shaw Chorale (O Sanctissima). Sleigh Ride was done in orchestral form, and is my favorite arrangement thereof. Tenor Mario Lanza chimes in with Adeste Fideles. The Ames Brothers does my second favorite rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town (second only to the Beach Boys - both of these avoid the needless screeching of SAAAAAAAAANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN! SAAAAAAAAAANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN!). The big highlight of this album is A Christmas Festival, a grand medley of favorites performed by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra.

MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE - The Glorious Sound of Christmas (Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, joined by the Temple University Concert Choir, directed by Robert Page)
As I mentioned in my first anti-overkill article, my father (passed in 1981 due to heart failure at the age of 48) was Robert Page, but not the Robert Page that directed Temple's choir. My dad did do some drumming, however, in his youth.
Anyways - the choir appears in Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, O Holy Night, O Come, All Ye Faithful, The Worship of God in Nature (Beethoven - we're using this at Holy Ghost this weekend, as it is based on the introit verse for IV Advent), and Silent Night. Beautiful meditative orchestral arrangements on O Little Town of Bethlehem, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, Ave Maria (Schubert), The First Noel, and O Sanctissima. Some really cool upbeat lighter arrangements appear in Joy to the World, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (I particularly love this one - much of it sounding like music for some old Western movie cliche), Deck the Halls, and O Come, Little Children.

Those were the days!

Peace,
BMP

4 comments:

Ma Beck said...

Brian,
Stay out of my parents' record collection!
:)
Holy cow. That brought back some memories.

Brian Michael Page said...

Which ones did you have Ma Beck?
BMP

Ma Beck said...

To my recollection, we had
1, 4, 5, and 6. And if 7 is your fave, I wish we had had that.
How I remember those 'Goodyear', 'Time Life', etc. records.
We grew up on Burl Ives, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Roy Clarke, Marty Robbins, etc.
Oh, and my mother LOVES Nat King Cole.
'Too Young' is her little 'special song' with my father.
So we had, ya know, 'Nat Does Christmas' too, or whatever.
A very big hit in our house.
:)

Brian Michael Page said...

The one I'm assuming you're referring to as #7 (Glorious Sound) is now available as a CD at Amazon, and on the Sony site.
BMP