Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Music

Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers started the holiday blogging prompt, Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories, about six years ago. Today's prompt is Christmas Music.

Christmas carols, church music and even more modern novelty songs are all a big part of our Christmas memories. What songs were your favorites as a child and are they still your favorites or do you have new ones? What about your parents or family members – were there certain songs or types of Christmas music played during the season? And how would you describe the type of Christmas music you like?

Write about anything related to Christmas music and your memories of Christmases past.

My fondest memories of Christmas music are definitely out of the norm. It isn't Dean Martin or Bing Crosby that first come to mind when I think Christmas music, it's Marlena Dietrich, Odetta and Stan Freberg.

My parents loved many kinds of music, folk among them. When they lived in the Chicago suburbs, they listed to a radio show called "The Midnight Special" on WFMT on Saturday nights from 9pm - Midnight. One year my dad recorded their Christmas show on his reel-to-reel player. We listened to that recording every Christmas Day and over the years it became my holiday soundtrack.

Unfortunately, that reel-to-reel tape snapped one day as have the few cassette tapes Dad made from it and I haven't been able to find any recordings around my step-mother's house. But I have my memories of the songs, like Win Stracke's "Christmas in Clout City," that don't exist anywhere else and some of them were popular enough to make it to iTunes and YouTube. I'm sharing some of those below.

I believe that the Odetta spirituals are the same recordings that were played that night long ago on WFMT. They are lovely, uplifting songs. Marlene Dietrich's recording of Der Trommelmann (The Little Drummer Boy) is very different from most other recordings of the song, but lovely in its own way.

The other selections are more comedic and misanthropic and a little bit cynical. But they are snapshots of their time as well.

Yes, of course, I do listen to classic Christmas songs and carols. I always listen to the Nutcracker through at least once each season and I have Christmas albums on iTunes like Canadian Brass and the Westminster Boys' Choir and the music from A Charlie Brown Christmas, but it wouldn't be Christmas for me without a little Midnight Special.

 Odetta - Shout for Joy

 Odetta - Children, Go Where I Send Thee

Marlene Dietrich - Der Trommelmann

 Stan Freberg - Green Christmas

Tom Lehrer - A Christmas Carol

Mike Nichols & Elaine May - Merry Christmas, Doctor.

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