December 2, 2005

Power Caroling

or, Our Top 10 Desert Island Christmas Albums

Queen Shenaynay

Yesterday, I heard the words "let earth receive Her king!" zing through the aisles at the grocery store. The moment was almost lost in the lull of familiarity -- the squeak of the trizillionth grocery cart, the same old cereal boxes... and a carol I could sing in my sleep. It was all so common that I almost missed noting the miracle of hearing the name of Christ exalted over the speakers at a grocery store.

December is the one month when songs about Jesus Christ are still sung in public. That, for me, is a fresh thrill every single year. Truly, the celebration of Christ's birth has given the human race some of the most beautiful music ever written.

But as our culture becomes increasingly secular, the Christmas music one hears in public and on the radio begins to follow suit. What child is this? Why, it's Destiny's Child (woo hoo), pummelling our senses with their reversion of the good news: "On the eighth day of Christmas, my baby gave to me a pair of Chloe shades and a diamond belly ring."

As pop drivel bumps and grinds its way into the Christmas music market, we are all sadly losing familiarity with many of the old, luscious, obscure carols about Christ's birth. (Incidentally, there IS a difference in a Christmas 'song' and a Christmas 'carol.' Traditionally, a carol is a song about Christ.) And the more those slick, synthesized, studio-driven Christmas albums take over the holiday music racks at local stores, the more crazed we Beehive denizens feel about collecting those off-beat but superb sorts of albums that capture the feel of a bunch of happy villagers freely making music together just for the pure joy of it.

In a day of too many myopic, money-driven music studio executives and way too few village carolers, we hereby encourage you all to indulge in some healthy, beautiful cultural rebellion. Dig a little into the rich, textured, timeless, gorgeous music of Christmas past. Ooooh, it's some really good stuff. You'll be so happy, and happy is good. Comfort and joy and all such as that.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is fun enough at first, but it begins to grate and pall after a few spins. Ah, but once you grow to love the lush beauty of old carols like "Once In Royal David's City" or "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," we truly believe you will never tire of hearing them.

Here, then, are our very favority favorites, the choice few holiday albums in our collection that we could listen to all year long. Go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and check them out. If you just hauled off and bought them all, we feel sure you would simply love us forever.

Angel's Glory
Kathleen Battle and Christopher Parkening

Comfort & Joy:
A Christmas Celtic Sojourn

The Holly & The Ivy
The Clare College Choir of Cambridge, with John Rutter

Jessye Norman

To Drive the Cold Winter Away
Loreena McKennitt

Nine Lessons & Carols
The Choir of King's College, Cambridge

A Christmas Celtic Sojourn

[Oh, and the other three albums pictured above are December by George Winston (the best album ever for winter afternoons spent reading and sipping hot tea by a crackling fire); A Scottish Christmas by Bonnie Rideout (which is Simply Fabulous); and Ancient Noels by Maggie Sansone and The Ensemble Galilei, which is most likely unlike anything you've ever heard. We like that.]


Leslie Noelani Laurio said...

What a great idea! I bought Ancient Noels and Angel's Glory from your list after listening to samples. And I posted our own list of ten favorites.

Dodger of Sheep said...

What is the deal with hot tea?????

fa-so-la-la said...

Angel's Glory is one of the bestest of the best-- I'm so glad you bought it!. Make sure that the first time you listen to it you do nothing but sit and *listen*. It's an experience.

Of the CD's listed, I am most partial to Angel's Glory and Comfort and Joy, perhaps the two most dissimilar albums of all of them. They really must be experienced together. Angel's Glory is heavenly, and I mean that in a very real sense. I always imagine angels sounding like Kathleen Battle (perhaps the continuation with my severe case of idol worship with Kathleen Battle when I was 3 or so). It is breathtaking and resplendant and about as near perfect as any music can be.

Comfort and Joy, on the other hand is the musical equivalent of bonfires and windy nights and strange highland drinks. The bizarre Celtic instruments and raw, amazing voices somehow manage to be not only unique and startling but beautiful as well. They combine to give this album a wild, almost fierce edge that reminds me forcefully that it is the Savior of sinners that we are honoring, and not an ivory tower deity. Good stuff.

Ann said...

It's sad that some stores are no longer allowed to play Christian Christmas music by the mall owners and are now playing Rudolf the Red Nosed Raindeer type songs only.

Pipsqueak said...

Hey, Fa So La La and Shieldmaiden, I picked you two to do the Seven Sevens thing over at the Common Room. :)

rachel tsunami said...

I have it on good authority that Queen Shay wants to be Jesse Norman when she grows up. Won't it be rich!

Dodger, the thing about hot tea tea is...well, hot. And comforting, and restorative, and warming...and there is, as you have rightly divined, a certain charm about hot tea. Hot tea is not thick (like hot chocolate, which I also love), nor acidic (like coffee, for which nothing can substitute when coffee is called for), but does impart that certain, inexplicable satisfaction that helps create the whole crackling fire, hot tea, charm paradigm which you find so enigmatic.

I know that little explanation doesn't really help you, Dodger, but listen: The next time you come inside from tying snakes into knots on a cold day, and someone offers you a cup of hot tea, just go ahead: Drink it! Be wild! Live in both worlds! And after a few years of this sort of adventurous behavior, you will begin to understand women and what makes them tick. Then when that happens, and all the other guys come to you for advice, you will grin a little lopsided grin (think Ryan Poe) and, without a word, hand them each a tea bag.

::lololol and affectionately pinching your face::

Dodger of Sheep said...

Oh,now I see...ok not really, but kinda. I actually tried all that tea stuff once, but I couldn't really get into it. It was rather bitter, and when I put enough honey into it that it wasn't anymore, the tea tasted like honey, not tea. Maybe it's just because I have a Southern tendency to like my tea sweet and iced. BUT the above post does confirm my hypothesis that women were created just to confuse men. They can't even make beverages simple.

::also laughing out loud::

Lynn Bruce said...

Dodger dude, I want to help you here. I'm afraid you're missing out, and we can't have that.

Let's give it another go. Try Earl Grey. Don't leave the bag in more than three minutes (that bitter thing). Plop in two sugar cubes (don't tell your mom, but honey just ain't gonna do the same thang for yo tea, y'hear?). Put a little milk in it if you like.

Do this every afternoon for a week, and then drop back by to give us a report.

If Earl Grey doesn't prove to be your friend, we can try Blackcurrant, another Beehive addiction.

Gem said...

I must comment, the Jessye Norman album cover looks like the wreath is an extension of her hair. It's hilarious at first glance!

fa-so-la-la said...

We have always laughed about that. It kind of adds to the whole Jesse Norman Force of Nature image, dosn't it?