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One of my favorite things about the Christmas Season is the music. I break Christmas music into two categories: hymns (spiritual in nature and content) and songs or carols (secular in nature).
My favorite hymn is Oh Holy Night, with its beautiful ascent and simple, clear telling of the Gospel story. One of my favorite carols is Silver Bells, first sung by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in the 1951 movie, The Lemon Drop Kid.
But with all due respect to Hope and Maxwell, my favorite version of this song is by Tanya Tucker, the beautiful but troubled country western star of the 1970's and 80's. Her slower pace gives the song an entirely different characterization, and her redolant southern alto wraps itself around the words, investing them with an almost tangible texture, and caressing the listener in a cocoon of sound and imagery.
Another favorite Christmas song is Two Thousand Miles, by Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders. Hynde is a great rarity - a woman in the rough and tumble world of rock, who founded, led, and managed a successful and long-running band. The second date I ever had with Barb was a Pretenders concert at the beautiful Fox Theater in downtown Detroit. Seated in the fourth row, we could hear the chatter of the musicans between songs, and I will never forget her mesmorizing stage presence and rich, lilting voice. One of the best CD's I have ever heard is The Pretenders' Isle of View. In this un-plugged recording session, Hynde showed her musical genius by completely re-arranging fourteen of her favorite songs, and adding a string quarter as background. The disc is an intimate dance between the violin and her incomparable voice, combining to take us on a wonderful journey of contemporary music, wrapped in a tight and cozy blanket of classical heritage. Two Thousand Miles is on this disc, and depicts the heartache of separation from loved ones at this time of year, displaying a tenderness which belies Hyndes' outwardly defiant and butch exterior.
What are some of your favorite Christmas songs? Whatever they are, and no matter how full your schedule, don't miss a chance to sit down in your favorite chair and listen to some of them. And ask your kids to join you to enjoy their company and to expand their musical horizons.
And whatever we do this Christmas and Holiday Season, may the words of Charles Dickens, spoken through his timeless and mighty character Tiny Tim, be in our minds and hearts:
"Merry Christmas - God Bless us, everyone".