Sunday, November 29, 2009

top ten songs about xmas

The first time I ever did a "top ten", I was such a newbie to blogging that I didn't realise that you could post ten YouTube clips in one post, so my Christmas top ten had two clips on it, and even then I was anxious about whether it would post.

St Stephen's Guild - click to go to their websiteWith your indulgence, I'd like to post a Christmas top ten. I realise not everybody agrees with the spelling of Xmas in the title, but I'm happy to use it because X, or "Chi" in the Greek alphabet, is the first letter of Christ in that language and has always stood for Christ, as in the "Chi Rho" monogram that is, among many other things, the seal of St Stephen's Guild of Altar Servers.

10 - Lo he comes with clouds descending

Lichfield Cathedral's Western front: click to enter websiteA constant and justified complaint of Professor Calculus' is that we seem to move from Guy Fawkes Night on 5th November to Christmas in the commercial calendar, and Advent gets lost somewhere along the way. My only critique of his view is that Christmas starts just after the summer holidays in some major stores. But here's his favourite Advent hymn, sung by the choir of Lichfield Cathedral in Staffordshire:

9 - December Song

The title of this song is confusing as it's actually about Christmas. What I like about both song and video is that it uses searing cyber-Dickensian critique to accentuate the value of Christmas for a generation of kids cursed not only with familial breakdown but also the availability of 24/7 communications technology, much of it bearing anti-Christian messages at the traditional times of Christmas and Easter. Enjoy.

8 - The Power of Love

EJ Norman - I recommend you click to listen to her music on her MySpace pageThis was Frankie Goes to Hollywood's third single. It followed Relax and Two Tribes, so everybody I knew watched its debut with hands ready to cover eyes. But it was a pwerful retelling of the Nativity, and it worked. EJ Norman released it as a treat for her fans last year: click her pic to see her profile, and watch out for further releases.

7 - What child is this?

The question echoes down through the centuries, from supporters, detractors and the victims of acts He would not have sanctioned. As any parent can attest to, a baby changes everything. This is a collaboration between Andrea Bocelli and Mary J Blige.

6 - I believe in Father Christmas

A perfunctory hearing of this song might leave the listener with the impression that it's anti-Christian, but that's not my interpretation, having heard it for 30-odd festive seasons. It's not exactly pro-Christian, either. Greg Lake's setting of Troika, the fourth movement out of five in Prokeviev's Lieutenant Kijé suite, is an object lesson in getting folk to listen to your words by giving them quality music - hymn writers pay attention, please! Having said that, I can't disagree with Lake's conclusion - The Christmas we get we deserve.

5 - Christmas Song

Gilbert O' Sullivan's assertion that he was dreaming of a peaceful world instead of a white Christmas obviously hit a chord - he's performing here with a choir from a Jesuit girls' preparatory school. I imagine many members of the armed forces posted abroad for Christmas - and their families - agree with him.

4 - Wonderful Christmastime

Paul McCartney provides a masterclass in how to write and perform the classic Christmastime song.

3 - I'll be home for Christmas

Bing Crosby first made this song famous and a favourite in forces serving abroad - here it is performed by the Carpenters, and it has relevance for conflicts in Afghanistan. Please spare a thought and whisper a prayer for the troops out there.

2 - Mary's Boy Child

Harry Belafonte first recorded this song, but it became a worldwide hit with Boney M's calypso version, which is my favourite rendition of the piece. Enjoy.

1 - Silent Night

Josef Mohr - click to go to the website of the Silent Morning museumIt must have been fate that flummoxed the organ in Austria's Nikolaus-Kirche on Christmas Eve 1818: it forced Father Josef Mohr to bring a melody he'd composed on guitar to local headmaster Frances Xaver Gruber, desperately hoping that the latter could come up with lyrics. 170 years later, glamsters-turned-popsters Bros gave many of us a plesant surprise with their interpretation.

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  2. Mary's Boy Child is something to which we look forward every year. I Believe in Father Christmas was one of my favorites as a child. Always liked the sound, regardless of the words, which I do not think to be anti-Christian.
    Here, there has been a bandwagon of people who type on buttons and say "Put the Christ back in to X-Christmas". I want to laugh, "What do you think the X is?!"

  3. Hear hear! Unfortunately I've heard members of the clergy agitate to replace Xmas with Christmas, not realising that both say the same thing!


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