And this brings us to our last day of Christmas music this year. This is an artist I heard of only this past week, but I love some of what she’s got up on YouTube. And since it is, after all, I who am curating, we will be finishing up with a little Gothic carol.
I wish you all a joyous holiday season, and I’ll check back in with you in the new year, if not sooner.
Those of you who have been following along on the blog for a few years now know that my cousin’s husband is a member of the a capella group Straight No Chaser. They have some really amazing Christmas renditions.
One of my favorite carols when I was a child was “Do You Hear What I Hear?” I’m not sure what about that song appealed to me most; maybe the structure, maybe the melody, maybe the sense of connection, maybe the telephone game. Anyway, I loved it.
One of my Thanksgiving traditions, in place for as long as I can remember, is seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade on television. As a young adult, I would wrap Christmas presents while I watched it. Now that I have children and host the holiday at my house, I don’t catch the whole parade, but I do make sure it’s playing so my kids can see it if they want — Dear Husband is indifferent to this one — and so I can drift in and out of the room to take in snatches of it while I’m preparing dinner or getting the house ready for guests.
This year I happened to see Gwen Stefani performing “White Christmas” in celebration of her new Christmas album. I’ve always liked Stefani well enough: I liked a lot of the music she made with No Doubt and on her own, and I’m a fellow red lipstick devotee. It was a cute performance. Nothing spectacular, but the parade’s singing performances often aren’t, seeing as the artists are lip-synching in sometimes frigid weather and moving around on floats. But I was intrigued by the idea that she’d put out an album.
I don’t follow celebrity gossip all that much, but it has been tough the last year or so to go to the grocery store and not see Stefani’s personal drama splashed all over the checkout aisle. Apparently she’s with a country music singer now? And there’s some ugliness with his ex? I try not to get involved. Well, if I hadn’t known that before, just listening to the song previews of her new Christmas album — which did not list “White Christmas,” by the way — would have told me things had changed format.
The album is a mix of traditional and new, original songs. Just listening to thirty seconds of each song clued me in to a new twang in her voice on all the standards and a mention of God in just about every single new song. Ska this is not.
When I was a child, my younger siblings and I fought all the time. So much, in fact, that I’m not sure how we managed to become friends as adults, except that we all live in different cities. And when I began teaching and read my students’ essays about the good times they shared with their siblings and how they cared for and played with one another, I didn’t see how something like that was possible. It felt like my siblings and I had grown up as outliers.
But there was one utterly magical moment, during a December when we were all in grade school, that I hope I never forget. The three of us had gotten out of bed one night, just randomly and without consulting each other first, and all sat down in front of the huge, lit, decorated Christmas tree in the otherwise dark living room, and we just started singing “Silent Night.” To this day I have no idea how or why we started doing it, but there it was, just one perfect and peaceful moment. Then we all went back to bed. It’s the only time, I think, we ever did anything like that, and I have no idea whether our parents knew about it, since they neither interrupted the moment nor commented on it afterward.
Last year my friend J.F. requested this song for this series, but it didn’t make the cut.
This summer he unexpectedly passed away.
Now this song keeps going through my head, and I’m guessing it’s because J.F. is wishing me a Merry Christmas from wherever his spirit is enjoying his afterlife. (J.F. was a holy man and a Christian, so I’m guessing he’s with God.)