One of my pastor indicated this week how much he dislikes the lyrics to Santa Claus Is Coming to Town; it’s that “sees you when you’re sleeping” stuff and he got into what type of God we envision. It was with that thought in mind that I listened to an album put together by some obsessive-compulsive sort (not me) of 24 versions of that very same song! When I played it last year, I discovered that it was surprisingly listenable, not at all monotonous. Actually, this year, I put it in on random play with an equally exhaustive collection of “Little Drummer Boy” renditions. As a straight listen, one can be “pa-rum-rummed” out by LDB, but in the alternating play, it’s not so bad. I’ll tell you what version of “Santa Claus”, though, I HAVE tired of. It’s the one done by the dancing, singing plush toy snowman that one of my in-laws gave to Lydia last month. It’s not a terrible version, as stuffed toys go – it seems to be trying to do Springsteen – but Lydia can play it over and over (and over…)
Generally, though, I didn’t play much Christmas music at home or at work, mostly because my wife CONSTANTLY has the radio tuned at night to some local radio station playing nothing but the seasonal tunes – unless Dominic the Donkey comes on; then she’ll shut it off for three minutes. In fact, I’ve played Christmas music on only a couple occasions so far this season, one being when I received a couple discs in the mail recently – both very good, BTW.
Another occasion was this Sunday past. I had gone to church at the early service to light the Advent candle with Carol and Lydia, then stayed through the second service so that I could sing in the choir – I was churchified. By the time I got home, there was a bunch of my in-laws in the house. Carol said, “Why don’t you play some Christmas music?” So I grabbed the first five CDs in the Christmas section of the collection, put them into the player, and hit random play. The first song to come up was “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”. My father-in-law said, “Are you trying to send a message?” Oy.
Actually, I bought the single of “Grandma” when it first came out – who knew it’d become a perennial? – and the version is different from the one on the CD. When, in the original, Elmo asks “Should we open up her gifts, or send them back?” There’s no “Send them back!!” response. The “Rudolph” coda doesn’t exist in the original, either.
I find that’s true with a number of songs. The Harry Simone Chorale’s version of “Little Drummer Boy” has a last verse which is not so nearly as slow as the now-common recording.
There is this absolutely beautiful song called “The Bells of Christmas” by Julie Andrews, which I still have on a Firestone Christmas LP. I looked for it on iTunes, found it, bought it. I was disappointed, though, that they grafted on almost a full minute of extra instrumentation (from 1:08 to 2:02), which throws off the balance of the song. It’s longer (3:54 vs. about three minutes), but not better. Still, it will appear on the mixed CD I made for my colleagues.
I have a lot of tolerance for Christmas music – I think it’s a function of my parents having the single of the Chipmunks Christmas, which I used to do a fairly great rendition of – but some things do bug me.
* In search of the lost T: It’s Silent Night, not Silen Nigh. And Jesus Christ, not Jesus Cries. (Or maybe He does.)
* EE-yuk. I have this recording of Charlie Pride doing “O, Little Town of Bethlehem”, and he says, Beth-LEE-Hem, rather than a more modulated Beth-leh-hem. Others do it, too, but his is most egregious. Ironically, he also says “tha everlasting light”, instead of “thee everlasting light”.
Oh, and why were my in-laws in town on Sunday? After dinner, we all went to see the Melodies of Christmas at the beautiful Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady. This is the 27th annual benefit for the Child Cancer Program at Albany Medical Center, sponsored by WRGB-TV, Price Chopper grocery stores, and the folks that make Freihoffer cookies. The program featured Empire State Youth Orchestra and Youth Chorale. Also participating, Professor “Louie” & The Crowmatix, a Woodstock-based band who got those primarily suburban kids to – almost- swing. I must say that, having seen it on TV a number of times, it’s better live. Still we’ll watch it Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We’ll probably still see the “honey shots” of the high school co-eds that the Channel 6 cameramen seem to concentrate on each year.