Christmas, Christmas Time is Near

Monday, November 29, 2010 - 11:34 AM

What does a nice Jewish girl know about Christmas music? After decades as a choral singer, church soloist, and radio host (in fact, the radio host usually on duty on Christmas day), the answer is, "Plenty!" So I’ve spent the past couple of months helping to weed through the good, the bad, and the ugly (everybody and his dog has cut a Christmas album), to come up with great selections for WQXR.

Do you have a favorite Christmas carol, or piece of classical music that means Christmas to you? Are there ones you never need to hear again? Please let us know.

And here are my answers to those questions: A colleague at a previous station did in The Little Drummer Boy for me by playing it over and over and pa rum pum pum over. My favorite carol (for sentimental reasons) is Once in Royal David’s City; I also love Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols. And even though I confess to a terrible soft spot in my heart – or maybe in my head – for The Chipmunk Song (I still want a hula hoop!), don’t hold your breath waiting to hear it on WQXR.

P.S. A few years back, I did a piece for NPR about a guy in Cincinnati with an enormous collection of old Christmas lights. I decided that it would be more fun if I took myself out of it completely, and just let Bob and old Christmas songs tell the story

More in:

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Comments [89]

Bob Schore from Rocklamd County

Third line from the bottom of my previous post should read, "does NOT hold up."

Dec. 26 2010 11:22 PM
Bob Schore from Rockland Couty NY

Anything done in balance can be well-liked and appreciated. I have the distinct impression that public WQXR has gone far beyond commercial WQXR in its presentation of Christmas music, whether secular, choral or adtual church music. Your one half-hour segement of Chanuah music was great but no where approaches the balance, even given the fact that Chanukah is more a historical holiday than religious, yet it is the only Jewish holiday that is publicly celebrated (e.g. outdoor menorahs). What also does not add up is WQXR's dropping of Temple Emanuel and its previous Sunday a.m. church programs. Temple Emanel offered beautiful cantoial music, now never heard on your station (or any where on radio), The excuse that NPR prohibits overt religious programming does hold up, in view of the many choral and church music presented, Also, note that many other NPR stations still broadcast church services (WFUV, WSOU among others).

Dec. 26 2010 11:09 PM
Michael Meltzer

Mr. Braskett:
Now we're off on quite a tangent. The many unfortunate errors in judgment by German Jews don't necessarily lend themselves to generalizations, especially about Wagner.
I grew up in the heavily Jewish Midwood section of Brooklyn. In 1954, I was sixteen and my piano study had taken me into keyboard harmony and improvization. My teacher, CBS studio pianist Abbey Fraser, had gotten me around to the handling of unresolved 9ths, 11ths & 13ths, and sent me out to buy some recordings by Art Tatum and of the music of Wagner.
In those days there were many small record stores, but on Kings Highway, Avenue M, Avenue J and on Coney Island Avenue, not one store carried any Wagner. I was told "You can't even give Wagner away in this neighborhood." I had to go to Manhattan to Sam Goody (a Sephardic Jew, but with a more cosmopolitan clientele).
That is real history.

Dec. 10 2010 12:02 AM
Ralph Braskett from No. Plainfield, NJ


Stille Nacht (Silent Night) in German &
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear in English are my favorites. Great music about our
Winter Holiday.
Herr Meltzer's threat about contribution loss to WQXR, if more Hannukah music is
not played, is likely idle and mean plus ignores history. German Jews were/are great supporters of Richard Wagner's terrific music in spite of the raving anti-semitism of his wife and children & Nazi appropriation of his music.

Dec. 09 2010 10:13 PM
Carol S from Mt.Vernon, NY

Another nice Jewish choral singer here.
There is actually some wonderful Chanukah choral music out there (yes Deborah, the Shirah concert was great) but not nearly enough.
I, too, love the "early" performances of Coventry
and very much look forward to hearing the Corelli Christmas Concerto. (It seems of late that any music written before Haydn is considered appropriate for Christmas use.) Would also enjoy hearing the Peter Schickele carols (O Little Town of Hackensack, etc).
Happy holidays, whatever!

Dec. 08 2010 09:45 PM

Unfortunately, when you do the math, there is no way to equate Chanukah music and Christmas music. Between classical composers and traditional carols, there's an enormous amount of music that's been written for Christmas. Much as I'd like to say the same thing about Chanukah, the musical numbers just don't add up!

Dec. 08 2010 02:15 PM
Michael Meltzer

Roger:
Your appraisal of Christmas as a secular holiday is realistic. Your numbers for the Jewish population are a little off for the NYC area, Jewish population estimated at about 2 million. That's not "a few percent.''
Considering the ethnic groups that would not be familiar in large degree with WQXR, the Jewish population probably supplies at least half of WQXR's listening audience.
The station will be able to get a feel for the numbers from the names on the contributions.
What we really have here seems to be a holiday that WQXR management really didn't think about at all until the very last minute when they tripped over it.

Dec. 07 2010 11:16 PM
Roger from Staten Island

Michael Meltzer, I don't think one can equate Hanukah music with Christmas music. The two just aren't the same: Christmas is a mainstream secular holiday, albeit with religious roots, whereas Hanukah is a purely sacred holiday celebrated by but a few percent of the population.

That's not a value judgment - it's just the facts of how media outlets operate. I'm sure WQXR management does understand that the vast majority of its listenership celebrates Christmas.

Dec. 07 2010 09:57 PM
Phyllis from Hillside, NJ

My favorite holiday piece would be the "Play of Daniel"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Play_of_Daniel
http://www.amazon.com/Play-Daniel-Herod-York-Musica/dp/B000009ISB

Dec. 07 2010 04:56 PM
Diane Israel from Montclair, NJ

The one piece of music I hate at Christmas time is -"Feliz Navidad". Second on my list is the movie "It's a wonderful life". Talk about sappy. I do love anything by my local Salvation Army band - people playing with grace and harmony. It's not Christmas until I hear the band play.

Dec. 07 2010 10:36 AM
Michael Meltzer

Thank you Naomi, point taken. I will cite that Christmas music is incorporated into the fabric of WQXR's 24-hour programming over a period of weeks, and that is a very different treatment than the creation of a "Chanukah music corner," however skillful and well-meaning.
Perhaps next year the station management will better understand the demographics of your support.

Dec. 06 2010 06:57 PM
Naomi Lewin

Dear Deborah and Michael,

I'm so sorry you missed WQXR's Chanukah special, which aired last Wednesday at 6:30. We promoted it on the air quite extensively beforehand -- I'm sorry you didn't hear about it in time to listen!

Dec. 06 2010 04:42 PM
John Turner from indianapolis

You did a great and wonderful thing. You gave everyone who wants to listen to Christmas music, their very own stream! So why are you still inflicting it upon those of us who don't? Come on WQXR, play plain old secular classical music!!! Where else can we turn for that? Your latest album of the week is horrid! A beauty salon quartet is bad enough, but this was a new low.

Dec. 06 2010 08:44 AM
Michael Meltzer

I second Deborah's complaint about the Chanukah music, and if something isn't done quickly, WQXR contributions are likely to suffer.
I would suggest that the programming department Google Elliot Levine, who in addition to being the charter baritone of the Western Wind Ensemble, is a prolific arranger and composer of Jewish choral music.
You will find in his recordings some delightful material for the holiday.

Dec. 05 2010 08:33 AM
Deborah from Teaneck, NJ

I too am a nice Jewish choral singer. In that department, I think the Carol of the Bells is the most "fun" thing I've sung recently.
However, I also sing with a Jewish choir, and there really are a number of good choral works appropriate to Hannukah - Judas Maccabaeus, Benedetto Marcello's arrangement of the Hannukah hymn Maoz Tzur, many of the works of Salamone Rossi, to name just a few.
I am very disappointed that I haven't heard any Hannukah-related music at all on WQXR this season. I just finished listening to Choral Fixation, which was 100% Christmas songs, even though we're in the middle of Hannukah and Christmas is still more than 2 weeks away.
[If anyone is near Tenafly, NJ, tonight at 7, come hear the Shirah Choir at the JCC, for good Hannukah fare!]

Dec. 05 2010 08:07 AM
christian from Buenos Aires Argentina

Hace 5 años que escucho por internet wqxr,realmente es exelente la calidad de musica y informacion que pasan,en cuanto a la musica de navidad realmente piezas hermosas que alegran el alma.
mis favoritas son silent night,greenleaves,chrismas white
feliz navidad para todos que reine la paza en el mundo.

Dec. 04 2010 12:45 PM
RB on 19th Street

Favorite? Not only for Christmas but of one of my favs of all time....
OH BEAUTIFUL STAR OF BETHLEHEM, sung by CHANTICLEER.

Dec. 03 2010 06:09 PM

Corelli.

Dec. 03 2010 04:47 PM

New Favorite (maybe it had something to do with Kylie Minogue's performance at the tree lighting this week): "Santa Baby". Or it could have been the dress...

Old favorite(s): any season choral music by JS Bach.

Dec. 02 2010 06:24 PM
Dave C from Atlantic Highlands

New favorite (thanks to Kylie Minogue's performance at the tree lighting this week): "Santa Baby" --- maybe her outfit had something to do with it.

Old favorite: anything choral by Bach appropriate to the season.

Dec. 02 2010 06:18 PM
Sandi Leibowitz from NYC

I'm also a nice Jewish girl who's spent a lifetime singing choral (and other) music.
Favorite carols: "Lo How A Rose E'er Blooming," "In the Bleak Mid-WInter," "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," "Angels We Have Heard on High." A lesser known classical piece that's wonderful is Schutz's "Dank sagen wir alle gott" from the "Weihnachts-Historie." That superb "singen, singen, preis sei gott" part sounds like it just needed to exist; and if Schutz didn't get around to it, I'm sure Bach would have taken care of it.

If you'd like to hear that--plus Lo How a Rose; other traditional carols; folk songs; plus see a mummer's play, brass band, morris dancers, and more--come to NY Revels' Christmas show on Friday Dec. 10-Sun. Dec. 12 at the Museo del Barrio. (Check out www.nyrevels.org for more info.) I used to come to this every year in the audience--and finally decided to join onstage. It's a fully costumed spectacle that simply brings joy! This year we explore the Winter Solstice in Bavaria.

Dec. 02 2010 05:48 PM
Nancy Whyte from NYC

Favorites: The carol/hymns "In the Bleak Mid-winter", "Love Came Down at Christmas"

The magnificent composition by Ralph
Vaughan Williams "Christmas Cantata"

Secular: Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

I hope to hear as little of "The Little Drummer Boy" as possible. To me it is totally maudlin. After directing productions of "The Nutcracker" for 23 years, I find it a well -overworked piece of music.

Dec. 02 2010 04:37 PM
Aline from Brooklyn, NY

My favorite music pieces for Christmas are Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming and
O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Both make me cry because they are so very beautiful. I also particularly LOVE O Holy Night as sung by Leontyne Price, one of the greatest divas of all times.
Hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a most Happy New Year!

Dec. 02 2010 01:33 PM
lynn levine from Hastings on Hudson NY

My most favorite pieces of Christmas music are Rosetti's "In the Bleak Midwinter" - there are two equally beautiful versions I've heard on this station - and "Once in Royal David's City" which reminds me of a candlelit Christmas Eve spent in St Martin's in the Field Church in London. Not a dry eye in the place! I hope you'll get to play them soon - I don't like dry eyes.

Dec. 02 2010 10:23 AM
James R from Sleepy Hollow, NY

Favorites? Anything by Alfred S. Burt (lyrics by Wihla Hutson) such as "The Star Carol" and "Some Children See Him." And yes, try "Drummer Boy" from that superb Baez album. "I Wonder As I Wander" can make a man cry.
Least favorites are those that mock the holiday.

Dec. 02 2010 10:06 AM
Rich from Hartford, CT

"Coventry Carol" and "O Come O Come Emmanuel," preferably by the Robert Shaw Chamber Singers.

In terms of secular Christmas music, anything from Nat King Cole or Johnny Mathis.

Dec. 02 2010 08:59 AM
Sydell Sherman from New York City

I have listened to WQXR since 1943. I would like to hear ""Silent Night" in German and "Adeste Fideles" in Latin. That is how I learned them in school.
However, my favorite of all times is "The Little Drummer Boy"...in English of course.

Dec. 02 2010 08:55 AM
John from Morristown, NJ

My Favorite: O Holy Night. I sang this several times as a solo while in school in the early 1950s. I still sing it as a solo in church each Christmas.
My Unfavorite: Little Drummer Boy! Glad to see that others also despise it. I hope you take it off the WQXR play list.

Dec. 02 2010 08:46 AM
ann hodgkins from Denville, NJ

Favorites...Angels We Have Heard On High, Come All Ye Faithful ( both in Latin),
The Holly and The Ivy and In King David's Royal City( both reminnd me of my British Mother)

Dec. 01 2010 11:44 PM
Joann from Central Jersey

My favorite Christmas album, hands-down,is Joan Baez, Noea real classicl. I bought the LP in college, later the cd, then the remastered cd & now it's on my iPod & iPhone. I don't understand why with the 24/7 holiday music, it isn't played more. It should certianly be in WQXR's mix.
Dislike? Mannheim Steamroller - no matter what they play, it manages to sound the same.

Dec. 01 2010 11:44 PM
Michael Meltzer

Don't blame choruses or their directors for over-performing the Messiah. It happens to be the most important fund-raisng tool in the choral repertoire.
Many a floundering chorus was temporarily put in the black with the ticket sales from a Messiah performance, and the checks written at the reception that followed.
The next most important one is Carmina Burana, but that doesn't work for Christmas.

Dec. 01 2010 09:40 PM
Constantine from New York

I forgot to mention three Renaissance Spanish Christmas carols, or "villancicos," namely, "Ríu Ríu Chíu," "Dadme Albricias Hijos D'Eva" and "E La Don Don Verges Maria." (The last is in Catalan.) These, which have become fairly popular in recent years, especially the first, are only the three best known of 54 in a collection called the Cancionero de Upsala [sic].

Dec. 01 2010 08:57 PM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

My favorite Christmas carols are "O Holy Night" and "Adeste Fidelis". I also love all the traditional English Christmas carols. My favorite non-religious Christmas songs are "White Christmas" (as sung by Bing Crosby) and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", which was first sung by Judy Garland in the film "Meet Me in St. Louis". Two songs I would not miss if I never heard them again: "Winter Wonderland" and a country music style song called "The Christmas Shoes", which has got to be the sappiest Christmas song I have ever heard!
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

Dec. 01 2010 08:43 PM
Constantine from New York

I'd like to put in a good word for the original version of "Jingle Bells," which is MUCH more interesting than what you usually hear. It has been recorded by the Robert DeCormier Singers and ensemble (at least). I think it's high time we brought it back and dumped the "modern" version, which is an absolute travesty. (If you think I got this from the talk page for the Wikipedia article, I was the one who put it on there in the first place.)

The original version of "The Coventry Carol" is also much more interesting than most modern ones. It has an irregular rhythm which is usually ironed out. I'm glad to say that the original version seems to be heard more often nowadays.

I also like Thomas Ravenscroft's "Remember Oh Thou Man," though some of the lyrics are rather strong for modern tastes.

Dec. 01 2010 08:22 PM
Paul Baretsky from South Orange, NJ

Last year Jeff Spurgeon played a recoding of Jerry Herman's "WE NEED A LITTLE CHRISTMAS" performed by a chamber group. It took a little time to recognize it but midway the melody shone through. On the recent WQXR Holy Land cruise, Jeff wasn't sure if it would be played again. While not my favorite Piece of Christmas music, the recording is wonderful and deserves many more plays.
I never saw my mother kissing Santa Claus and hope I never hear that tune again.

Dec. 01 2010 07:44 PM
Will

For me, Christmas music must include "Do You Hear What I Hear" by Bing, Mahalia, Johnny Mathis, whoever - it is such a beautiful song. More than this, I have to have Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song".

Dec. 01 2010 06:18 PM
Jim from Tuxedo

I'm with Jackie: In The Bleak Midwinter.
Also: the Pogo version of "Deck the Halls"

I Hate "Feliz Navidad".

Dec. 01 2010 06:03 PM
William Curtis from NYC

I have quite a few Christmas favorites, but Britten's "Ceremony of Carols," is done to death (perhaps because it's inexpensive - only a harp is needed.) My absolute favorites are Vaughan Williams' "Hodie" and Respighi's "Lauda per la Nativita del Signore." (The latter only requires a wind quintet - and is exquisitely beautiful) These wonderful pieces have only been played live, in NYC in memory only twice each in forty years. Honnegger's uplifting "Cantate de Noel" has never been done in the city. What a Shame! Some of these groups that do Messias all the time might try one as an alternative. As for Britten, how about "A Boy Was Born," "Christ's Nativity," or "Saint Nicholas" for a change?

Dec. 01 2010 05:47 PM
judy from florida

i have listened to wqxr for 50 years
i`ve LOVED that xmas music was
contained to those 2 wksbefore xmas
so that it was``special`` not boring
please keep it that way
a paying customer

Dec. 01 2010 05:34 PM
James Roe from UWS

Not a most loathed, rather one for the
road to Diva Eartha Kitt, who left us this
year. My all time FAVORITE dorky songs
for Holidays is Eartha's "Santa Baby"-so
non-secular an plain merry!

Dec. 01 2010 05:29 PM
dhm from Nyack

Going back to most loathed Christmas music - I have an ongoing dislike of Feliz Navidad by Jose Felicianos, but it was topped this past weekend when I was in the Gap. There was a muzak tape in which they tortured The Nutcracker - it was indescribable and truely painful and I hope never to hear it repeated.

Dec. 01 2010 05:22 PM
Patricia Horwitz from Oak Ridge, NJ

My favorite Christmas album is as follows:
60 French Girls - Les Djinns Singers
"Joyeaux Noel"
Favorite song - IL EST NE DIVIN ENFANT

Dec. 01 2010 05:21 PM
KRN from Toronto, Canada

My favourite will always be "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree" (set by Poston) and as a harpist, I have a very special place in my heart for the Interlude from Britten's "Ceremony of Carols."

Dec. 01 2010 12:09 PM
Michael Meltzer

Now we all want you to play the Wheat Carol.
First, by the Mormon tabernacle Choir. Then, for five-part brass. Finally, for two guitars by Sergio.

Dec. 01 2010 10:24 AM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz Song." There's something of the Christmas spirit to it.

Ms. Jones: "Knew" probably wasn't the best word. "Acquainted with" or "encountered" are a little more apt. There are probably hundreds of people that knew you on more than that level, having taught (teaching?) at a large school, so nothing approaching personal.

Dec. 01 2010 09:40 AM
Clarence from Lenox Mass. from Berkshire County, MA

Here are two personal favorites, not often heard:

"Remember, O Thou Man" by Thomas Ravenscroft (composed around 1600)

"The Crown of Roses," music by Tchaikovsky!

WQXR's programming is always in the best of taste - authentic Christmas music by choirs and classical performers is always welcome, and Dec. 1 is not too early. I would hope the once-per-hour scheduling would ramp up as the month progresses to at least 50 percent of each hour in the two weeks before Dec. 25

Many thanks for all you do at WQXR to keep quality classical-music broadcasting alive and well.

Dec. 01 2010 09:20 AM
Carole from Pittsfield MA

The London Brass is great, but it's really too early for Xmas music -- so I turn the radio down everytime anything Christmasy comes on. Maybe after December 15th, but not now.

Dec. 01 2010 08:50 AM
Bee Bee from New York

There are so many neglected carols that are delightful and preserved by Kings College, Chanticleer, Joel Cohen and others , that help ease the tired ear. Many opera singers have made recordings of the well heard and offer new arrangements as do The Mormans, Robert Shaw and the major symphony orchestras. Thanksgiving through New Year is a time we celebrate as a nation. even those for whom Christmas is not a religous observence gather during this time. And it brings us closer to those less fortunate. If we can endure a month of hot air, we should be able to endure that which keeps us close. Thanks for the music!

Dec. 01 2010 08:39 AM
Jackie Jones

A great big thank you for the Enquirer article!

And add "Carol of the Bells" and "O come, o come, Emmanuel" to my list. Are you going to play these songs Christmas day? Maybe you can find and play "Miracle of the Wheat."

Nov. 30 2010 11:35 PM
Jackie Jones

Wow! All this info about "The Miracle of the Wheat"! I Googled it unsuccessfully long ago, way before everything was on the Internet, and I just never thought to try again. And Silversalty, I'm the same person you knew from BC. So who are you?

Nov. 30 2010 11:28 PM

Favorite: Adeste Fidelis
Least: Grandma got run over by a reindeer

Chieftains: The Bells of Dublin, fav album

and the tribe knows a thing or 2 about Christmas, just ask Irving Berlin and his White Christmas...

Nov. 30 2010 09:32 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

Jackie Jones mentioned "The Miracle of the Wheat" and wanted to know more about the song. A little use of "the google" turned up some links -

Miracle of the Wheat
by dgwalters
Loc: Cincinnati OH
http://consciousevolution.com/LindaGoodmanForums/ubbthreads.php/topics/162849/Re_Miracle_of_the_Wheat

dgwalters includes links to downloadable versions of both an mp3 audio file and a pdf of the lyrics. The audio file is a little scratchy and not what I'd consider hi-fi, but then hi-fi was only beginning to appear at the time of the song's recording.

Where's that song?
Ed McCrudy; The Miracle Of The Wheat
Posted by Erik Apland
http://ipodobiography.blogspot.com/2009/12/wheres-that-song.html

Ironically I knew a Jackie Jones who taught programming at Brooklyn College back in the olden days. "Olden days" that is, when I was there.

Nov. 30 2010 08:55 PM
Todd Drexel from Manhattan

I think my favorite would be an album of carols by the Morman Tabernacle Choir.

My hands down worst is THE SANTA CLAUS ROCK

And just for fun (if that's allowed) Sung by a great Broadway Vamp, SANTA BABY at least once during the festivities

Nov. 30 2010 07:48 PM
Paul from Upstate NY

Like bsheehan, my favorite Christmas music is The Roches We Three Kings - favorites are "Good King Wenceslas" and "Star of Wonder".
Runnerup is New England Christmastide - traditional carols and melodies recorded on uillean pipes, tin whistle, mandolin, cello, harmonium, etc. Reading this, it may sound gimmicky, but it's not at all.

Nov. 30 2010 06:50 PM

not really a christmas tune, but favorite this time of year: sleigh ride by leroy anderson--and it's still good to play through february, or whenever the snow stops!

but i do NOT like any christmas carol before thanksgiving, and can barely stomach them before about beethoven's birthday!

Nov. 30 2010 06:28 PM
Richard from Philadelphia

This Christmas with Imani Winds gets my vote - a delightful CD with sparkling musicianship from a delightful wind quintet. A nice mix of arranged seasonal pieces with classical/ jazz/ popular rhythmic twists.

Nov. 30 2010 05:52 PM
cindy legorreta from Union Square

Traveling down this morning by subway from a colleague breakfast at Columbia University, I stepped off the train into the Times Square Station, and there were the bell ringers! Those guys and gals we see every year about this time, with the Salvation Army red kettles. For me, seeing them is the REAL moment my holiday begins. Tell you why: as a youngster, I remember walking down Fifth Avenue just before the holiday. A light snow was falling (natch!) and two Salvation Army fund raisers were filling the air with a spirited rendition of 'Good King Wenceslas'. Both of them were playing brass horns! I am hoping to find some wonderful Salvation Army horn players again this year. Sadly though, I must confess - even as I keep hoping...many Christmases have come and gone, without my seeing a duo like that again. For me, Good King Wenceslas brings to mind, and memory all the joys and merriment of the season!

Nov. 30 2010 05:17 PM
Caryn from Manhattan

Every Christmas season I play a game of music roulette to see if I can get through the holiday weeks without hearing "Little Drummer Boy." The desire not to hear this piece keeps me out of certain stores known to play serial seasonal musak, stops me from pushing the car radio buttons in search of a great song and generally has me staying with a classical station like WQXR to avoid the chance of catching a note or two (which is all that it takes to recognize this dreadful piece). One year I was very lucky and made it to New Year's Day. Well, this year, you folks got me last Friday morning -- one day into the season - by playing an orchestral version. Drats!

Nov. 30 2010 05:01 PM
Andy from Jackson, Mississippi

Favorite: Oh Holy Night

Least Favorite: Like many posts on here, Little Drummer Boy.

Nov. 30 2010 04:50 PM

I've never been able to stand "Little Drummer Boy", although I always get a chuckle out of the line "the ox and lamb kept time", picturing the two of them snapping their little nonexistent fingers and tapping their hooves. I love the Roches Christmas album, especially "Unto Us A Child is Born", and no Christmas would be complete for me without seeing the uncut version of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, with its great Jule Styne songs like "Winter Was Warm" and "Alone In The World".

Nov. 30 2010 03:24 PM
Steve D.

"The Miracle of the Wheat" was played on WKRC-AM in Cincy every year from a scratchy old 78 copy by the late Ted McKay (he was actually not Irish but Greek)-"Music with McKay" and he would always talk about how this was the only recording that he knew of and would always apologize for it. It was by Ed McCurdy & The Harvesters. If you Google the title you will find several locations that you can down load an MP3 version of it.

Cincinnati's loss was New Yorks gain. Naomi you are sounding just as good over the 'net here in fly over country.

Nov. 30 2010 03:22 PM
Conway from East Rutherford, NJ

Regarding my favorite Christmas Carols, there are 2:
Lo, How A Rose Ere Blooming, by Michael Praetorius, and
The Holly and the Ivy (Trad/Anon).
Regarding larger Christmas Music, I LOVE the Sandman Interlude from Humperdinck's, Hansel & Gretel.

Regarding a Christmas Carol that I would not miss if I never heard it again, that would easily be, Here Comes Santa Clause!
Many thanks for this excellent topic.

Nov. 30 2010 03:20 PM
J Kennedy from Chile

Just heard parts of Pink Martini's new Christmas album on Weekend Edition Saturday, rushed out and downloaded it. It's my new favorite. Delightful and a little different, but feels traditional already. Their version Drummer Boy is wonderful.

Nov. 30 2010 03:08 PM
elaine

You can hear both Joan Baez on her 1966 album as well as Pablo Cassals playing the Carol of the Birds with pictures of Mallorca on YouTube - very haunting.

Nov. 30 2010 02:45 PM
Henry Stoll from Boonton, NJ

Here's an interesting one for anyone who made it this far down the list: "Carol of the Birds." I've always been a ran of the more solemn Christmas carols. This was (I've heard) one of Pablo Casals' favorites and there is a beautiful recording sung by Joan Baez on her Noel album. I've looked (in vain) to find more about this exquisite carol, but all I know is that it's of Spanish origin.

Nov. 30 2010 02:07 PM
GeoffBurtNYC from New York

"Toy Piano" by Jose Melis (Jack Paar's music director) on "Christmas With Melis" never fails to stir my emotion. It's a crummy little tune banged out on an actual toy piano, but it spans across my 52 years of existence.

I also like the soundtrack to "The Santa Clause" by Michael Concertino. (Not the movie too much).

And the soundtrack to the 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol." I shall be buried with a copy.

Happy holidays to all!

Nov. 30 2010 01:39 PM
Dolores from New York

One of my most favorite pieces is "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" It is not played enough.

Nov. 30 2010 01:30 PM
Alan Polinsky from Brooklyn

I can't believe that no one mentioned the best song ever. Deck us all with Boston Charlie, (Nora's freesin' on the trolley) which appeared yearly in the comic strip Pogo must be the ultimate expression of the season.

Nov. 30 2010 12:25 PM
Neil Schnall

At this point, "The Little Drummer Boy" only as sung by Peter Griffin on "Family Guy": "I have a gift for you, it's up in my bum...." ;)

Nov. 30 2010 11:45 AM
Jackie Jones from Forest Hills, NY

I'm also a nice Jewish girl and choral singer (I sing with your sister), and 'The Little Drummer Boy" is one of my favorites, along with "Ceremony of Carols" and "In the Bleak Midwinter."
BUT--one of my favorites--probably because I haven't heard it for years--is "The Miracle of the Wheat." I grew up in Cincinnati, and this was played on WKRC during the Christmas season in the 1950's/1960's. The story I heard was that someone had given it to the host, and that they alone had the rights to play it. I would love for someone with Cincy connections to find out more about this lovely song! (I can sing it...)

Nov. 30 2010 11:04 AM
Michael Meltzer

I have to laugh. A few days ago, I posted on your "Cheer & Loathing" site a comment about the origin of "Little Drummer Boy," Shawnee Press and the media savvy of owner Fred Waring.
Harry Simeone is (or was) their chief choral arranger. From the hundreds of Christmas albums you could have used as an illustration, how did they get WQXR to choose that one?

Nov. 30 2010 09:25 AM
Noel J. Holland from New York City

Christmas carols are fine -- on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But Thanksgiving-to- Christmas? That's what I call boring. For one thing, it's not (with very few exceptions) classical music. For another, it would seem that the demographics of WQXR are such that probably only a minority of listeners even celebrate Christmas (in the religious sense) -- and believe me, even a Christian can get awfully tired of hearing carols every hour for nearly a month. Give it a rest. By all means, play those carols on the holiday, itself -- along with Chanukkah and Kwanza songs, if you must. The rest of the time, let's have WQXR do what it does best: play the kind of music we can't get on any other station in the New York area...classical music. And leave the carols to the department stores, where they are designed to put us in a buying mood.

Nov. 29 2010 11:23 PM
Barbara from Manhattan

I love Charlie Byrd's cd with 14 traditional carols including Coventry Carol; no words, just music. St. Patrick's has a beautiful evening of carols sung by a chorus. Most hated: department stores that begin playing carols during Thanksgiving weekend

Nov. 29 2010 08:56 PM
Louis Colon from Paterson,N.J.

One of my all time favorites is The Little Drummer Boy. One that I never would miss, is "anything" by the chipmunks. I did not appreciate it when I was a teenager and have not warmed to it at 64. Positively
tasteless and awful.

Nov. 29 2010 08:51 PM
rayna from New Jersey

THIS nice Jewish girl grew up in the minority and adored Christmas music, which we sang in school. I didn't believe in the words, but ignored them and reveled in the gorgeous music. None of that Jingle Bells nonsense - we sang serious music and to this day, I tune in to hear the beautiful carols and yes, even the Messiah (which is a whole 'nother conversation).

Naomi - LOVE listening to you and only wish you were on all day long.

Nov. 29 2010 07:50 PM
Michael Meltzer

One of the most beautiful and most perfect pieces of music ever composed, although it is brief and anonymous, is the Coventry Carol.
The best four-part arrangement I ever heard was published in a little carol book by Rubank in Florida called "Christmas in Song." All the printing in the book was green, but the harmonization (also anonymous) was gorgeous.
I believe it goes back to Tudor England, I hope some early music group may have recorded it.

Nov. 29 2010 07:25 PM
Ray from New York

There's so much wonderful Christmas music, I don't have any one favorite. One of my newly-discovered favorites, though, is the Poulenc motet "Videntes stellam," with glorious soprano writing. (The wag in me would like to add Tom Lehrer's "A Christmas Carol" to the list.) Least favorite: "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," which brings out the inner Scrooge in me every time I hear it.

Nov. 29 2010 06:25 PM
Gev Sweeney from Ocean Grove, New Jersey

My favorite Christmas music? Praetorius's Puer Natus, any Gabrieli for brass, and the This Little Babe section of A Ceremony of Carols--but sung only in a church. The echo effect doesn't make sense unless the sounds are swishing off the complex surfaces of the statuary.

Nov. 29 2010 06:22 PM
Kate from Paris, France

I grew up dancing in the Nutcracker every year, so I know every song by heart...I especially love the Overture. For me, it evokes the warmth and excitement I associated with Christmas when I was little.

I also love Greensleeves, especially when arranged for orchestra.

I cringe when I hear The Little Drummer Boy and Santa Baby.

By the way, listening to you has helped me feel connected to the city and to American culture in general from all the way on the other side of the Atlantic, so thank you for that!

Nov. 29 2010 06:12 PM
Bob McComsey from Edinburg, Texas

I grew up in NY in the 50s and 60s listening to the radio station of the New York Times. How happy I am that I can listen here, at work, in Texas on-line.

I also took piano lessons way back when, and can remember a Christmas Carol songbook that started with Silent Night, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, Deck the Halls, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, etc. These traditional songs have always been my favorite. I can also enjoy traditional carols like Sleighride and White Christmas. What I don't like are modern songs that disrespect the Christmas Holiday. Like a previous blogger, Grandma... is probably the worst of the bunch, but there are plenty more, like the dogs barking Jingle Bells, and the Archie Bunker style 12 Days of Christmas.

As for my absolute favorite, Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.

By the way, regarding the music I am thankful for, there are so many. Probably Liszt "Hungarian Rhapsody #2" and Tchaikovsky's :Cappriccio Italien".

Nov. 29 2010 05:51 PM
Annie from Houston

My favorite Christmas melody is Silver Bells, followed closely by the one that starts "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire".

Nov. 29 2010 05:49 PM
daniel choi from brooklyn, new york

Hi Naomi! That time has snuck up on me again. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen definitely hits the Christmas-sized spot. And not ashamed to say Silver Bells hits the commercialized-Christmas-sized spot.
Also, Mozart's Piano Sonata in C Major.

Thank you!

Nov. 29 2010 05:45 PM
Charae from Thousand Oaks, CA

I have many favorites, but the one that always makes me smile is the Little Drummer Boy duet between Bing Crosby and David Bowie - I didn't see the debut on TV but I can only imagine how surprising and wonderful it must have been!

I'm not a big fan of a lot of the covers being released - you really can't beat many of the originals.

Nov. 29 2010 05:44 PM
Graham Cooley from NJ

Silent Night, Holy Night

Nov. 29 2010 05:43 PM
Barry from New Jersey

Okay, I have to say that if I never heard The Little Drummer Boy again, it would be too soon. But I could listen to the Schuetz Christmas Story any time of the year. I also really liked the Imani Winds CD that you played a lot last year - just wonderful arrangements of Christmas music, beautifully played. But Chanticleer . . . not so much!

Nov. 29 2010 05:41 PM
Jacob from Louisiana

Christmas just ain't Christmas without playing A Christmas Offering, Leontyne Price's 1961 materpiece recording with Herbert von Karajan & The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus.

Thanks!

Jacob, a former NY'er now living in Louisiana listening 24/7 to WQXR via Internet.

Nov. 29 2010 05:34 PM
MJ from Peoria, IL

To be honest with you, I love all the traditional Christmas music and carols. What beautiful music and it brings back such wonderful memories! Of course, any Christmas music by the Canadian Brass has to be wonderful.

On the other hand, I simply can't stand most of the newer, pop-style Christmas music (e.g., Jingle Bell Rock, etc.). Blech!

Naomi: I used to listen to you online from WGUC and now here on WQXR; it's like I can't get away from you (grin)!

Nov. 29 2010 05:30 PM
Kevin from Chicago

FAVORITE = O Holy Night
DESPISED = Momma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.......the composer should face a herd of angry, hungry, no starving reindeer!

Nov. 29 2010 05:29 PM
One of Your Colleagues at WQXR

Alvin's wish will forever go ungranted, Naomi, but all you had to do was ask. You've been a good girl this year, so rest assured (with happy sugarplum/latke dreams) that Santa/Hannukah Harry will bring you a hula hoop this year!

(If the darned things weren't so difficult to mail, I'd start a formal online campaign to inundate you with them.)

Nov. 29 2010 02:07 PM

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