Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Jonal entry 1082 | December 19 2008
In past Christmas seasons I've written about my favorite Christmas music and have decided this year to share three of my favorite songs, now that the technology to do so is available and most people seem to have high-speed Internet connections (which are required to play the music videos on this page). As mentioned earlier, for years I have listened to nothing (intentionally) but Christmas music from the Friday after Thanksgiving to around Epiphany (or as we Orthodox call it, Theophany) on January 7. I always get eager for the beginning of that season of music and don't like seeing it go each year.
The Angels' Carol This first song has been my favorite Christmas song for seven years or so. I believe I downloaded it from an MP3 website after Christmas around 2001. I knew those free music sites were in danger so, even though Christmas was past, I downloaded whatever I could. I probably didn't even play it until the following season. And when this song came on, I was awe-struck. I didn't remember ever hearing it before, but before it was over I was convinced it presented the Christmas Gospel better than anything else I ever heard. Part of its charm is the very quiet, almost inaudible opening, that eventually builds to a crescendo that strikes me as just the way the angels might have sounded that night. It's The Angels' Carol, by John Rutter, and this video is from YouTube. I don't know what the opening "dedication" means; it doesn't matter. Click the play button and turn your volume all the way up for this one.
Secular / Nanty Glo favorite: It's Christmas Everywhere I found a ready-made video version of this on YouTube, too, with three minutes five seconds of nice pictures of Paul Anka, but that wouldn't do. No Christmas song says "Nanty Glo" and Blacklick Valley to me more than this one..."snowflakes falling down on every little town" always takes me there immediately. So I adapted last year's GloTube video of Blacklick Valley Christmas lights to make my own music video of this one. The YouTube writeup accompanying the version I saw there said this came out in 1960. I don't remember hearing it until 1964, the first Christmas I was living "away from home," in New Jersey. I did drive home for Christmas then, and when I heard this on the local radio station it came to take the place in my music vault it has had ever since. Volume at halfway this time.
Handel's Hallelujah Chorus No three-song collection of Christmas favorites would be complete without the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. I've never been a big fan of "classical music" (it's a sure sign of my poor breeding that it strikes me as too noisy and excessively repetitive). But this, and the whole oratorio, The Messiah, are the main exception to that. I'm not sure I'd have come to consider it a favorite if I had not been in a church (while in New Jersey) where it was performed by the choir, accompanied by an orchestra, before Christmas every year, and later I sang it in the college choir. But it speaks to the majesty of the King of Kings more appropriately than anything else I know. I deplore the crass commercialization of the Hallelujah Chorus, by the way, in a number of television advertising campaigns in recent years, consider it blasphemous (this should be reserved only for the King of Kings), and I make a note not to patronize the company thus profaning this great work and its subject. It is said that when Handel first performed it in London in 1743 the King of England spontaneously rose to his feet when the Hallelujah Chorus began, in homage to HIS King. When the King stands, everyone stands, and when this is performed, this is still the custom, all over the world. This version, also from YouTube, is by a church choir I don't know anything about, but it seems a faithful rendition. You may want to put your volume control around the center setting for this.
Note: If you hear pauses or "glitches" on your first plays (which can be caused by various contingencies), try muting your volume and let the entire song run its course, then try it again. Once it's donwloaded into your computer cache it should sound just right.
I hope you have enjoyed this pre-Christmas concert.