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24 December 2012 @ 10:41 am
Advent Day 24: Silent Night  
Well here we are at the end of the advent calendar. I hope you enjoyed it.

For a relatively new Christmas carol, Silent Night had its share of myths. One is the often repeated tale that the song's writing was prompted by the organ at the church breaking down and thus a song that could be accompanied by guitar was needed. That does not seem to be how it happened. What we do know is that Stille Nacht was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at the St. Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf bei Salzburg in Austria. The young parish priest Father Joseph Mohr had written the lyrics to Stille Nacht in 1816. Before Christmas Eve 1818, Mohr brought the song to Franz Xaver Gruber, schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdorf, and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for the church service. Both men performed the song during the service. In Gruber's written account, he makes no mention of specific inspiration for the song. There is nothing about the organ being broken, in fact that story seems to date back to a late 1940s American radio play. In 1859 John Freeman Young, an Episcopal bishop, published the English translation most commonly heard today. The version of the melody that is generally sung today differs slightly (particularly in the final strain) from Gruber's original, which was a sprightly, dance-like tune in 6/8 time as opposed to the slow, meditative lullaby version generally sung today. The carol has been translated into over 140 languages. The song is considered a must for Christmas albums and virtually every artist that has produced a Christmas album has covered Silent Night. A version recorded by Bing Crosby is in the top ten of best selling singles of all time selling over 30 million copies [worth noting Bing Crosby's White Christmas tops the list with over 50 million copies sold worldwide] worldwide.
Because it's Christmas Eve, I'm going to give you a few to chose from:
Silent Night )

Merry Christmas to all of you. May it be a happy and safe one.
 
 
Current Mood: chipper
 
 
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23 December 2012 @ 10:09 am
Advent Day 23: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing  
The original version of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing first appeared in 1739 in the collection “Hymns and Sacred Poems” and was written by Charles Wesley. The original version was much more solemn then the carol as it is performed today. The current version is the result of alterations due by various people, most notably George Whitefield, Felix Mendelssohn and William H. Cummings. Whitefield, a contemporary of Wesley's, changed the opening couplet to the one we know today. In 1855, Cummings adapted part of the music from Mendelssohn's 1840 cantana Festgesang to fit the lyrics. There are also a few other arrangements of the song that can be heard on occasion.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing )
 
 
Current Mood: good
 
 
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22 December 2012 @ 10:23 am
Advent Day 22: I Wonder as I Wander  

I Wonder as I Wander was written by folklorist and singer John Jacob Niles. It was based on a fragment of a song he heard sung by a girl in Murphy, North Carolina in July 1933. Based on this fragment, he wrote I Wonder as I Wander as it is known today expanding the melody to four lines and the verses to four stanzas. He finished the composition in November 1933 and performed it for the first time that December.
I Wonder as I Wander )


 

 
 
Current Mood: cheerful
 
 
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21 December 2012 @ 08:47 am
Advent Day 21: Home for the Holidays  
Well so far the world's still here (where it'll probably be until long after we're all gone), so I think we can move on to today's song!
Home for the Holidays was written in 1954 by Robert Allen and Al Stillman. Popular as a Christmas song, the lyrics could also describe Thanksgiving. It also contains my favorite line "from the Atlantic to Pacific, gee the traffic is traffic." Yep sarcasm in a nostalgic Christmas song! The best known recordings of this song were by Perry Como and The Carpenters, though other artists have recorded the song.
There's no place like home for the holidays )
 
 
Current Mood: amused
 
 
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20 December 2012 @ 10:17 am
Advent Day 20: Sleigh Ride  
Sleigh Ride is a light orchestral piece composed by Leroy Anderson. He had the idea for the piece during a heat wave (there seems to be a trend with Christmas songs and that)in July 1946, it was completed in February 1948. The lyrics were written by Mitchell Parish in 1950. The orchestral piece was first recorded by Arthur Fieldler and the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1949 and has become one of the Boston Pops' signature pieces. Although Sleigh Ride is a popular song at Christmas, the lyrics don't mention a specific holiday or religion (although some versions change the lyric "birthday party" to "Christmas party"). Sleigh Ride has been recorded numerous times by many artists, although the version most played by radio stations is Leroy Anderson's own recording from the 1950s. Sleigh Ride was the most widely played song on US radio stations in the years 2010 and 2011 (and has been in the top ten for several years).

Sleigh Ride )
 
 
Current Mood: hopeful
 
 
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19 December 2012 @ 10:09 am
Advent Day 19: We Three Kings  
We Three Kings also called We Three Kings of Orient Are or The Quest of the Magi was written (both lyrics and music) by John Henry Hopkins, Jr, an Episcopalian priest. It first appeared in print in 1863 but may have been written in the 1850s as part of a pageant for his nieces and nephews.
We Three Kings of Orient Are )
 
 
Current Mood: drained
 
 
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18 December 2012 @ 09:24 am
Advent Day 18: Santa Claus is Comin' to Town  
Santa Claus is Comin' to Town was written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie. It became popular after it was sung on Eddie Cantor's radio show in November 1934. In those days, sheet music outsold records and it became a sheet music hit with orders for 100,000 copies the day after the show aired and selling another 400,000 by Christmas. The earliest known recording was by banjoist Harry Reser and his band in October 1934. Since then it's been a Christmas standard even inspiring a 1970 Rankin Bass Christmas special. The most famous version of the song is probably by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Sometimes Santa Claus is Coming to Town )
 
 
Current Mood: blah
 
 
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17 December 2012 @ 08:52 am
Day 17: The Wexford Carol  
From fluffy we go to very old. The Wexford Carol is a traditional Irish carol originating from County Wexford in the southeast of Ireland. This carol has roots going back to the 12th century and is one of the oldest extant Christmas carols. The song gained new popularity in 1928 when music historian William Gratton Flood contributed it to the Oxford Book of Carols. In the later part of the 20th century, the renewed interest in Irish culture led to several recordings of the song by artists such as Moya Brennan, The Irish Tenors, Loreena McKennitt and Yo-Yo Ma (with Alison Krauss and Natalie MacMaster). Despite it's Irish roots, the lyrics are traditionally English (and are likely newer than the music), only in recent years has the song been translated into Irish by musicians.
The Wexford Carol )
PS the Brian Setzer Orchestra did not disappoint. Such a good show, almost 2 hours long, every time you thought they were done, they kept going. My seats were a bit far away from the stage to get any pictures but the sound was excellent.

 
 
Current Mood: contemplative
 
 
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16 December 2012 @ 09:39 am
Advent Day 16: Marshmallow World  
Possibly the ultimate in fluffy Christmas songs (see what I did there?) Marshmallow World was written in 1949 by Carl Sigman and Peter DeRose. It was first a hit for, of course, Bing Crosby (1950).  Other artists who are recorded this song include Darlene Love, Johnny Mathis, Dean Martin and Brenda Lee.


It's a Marshmallow World in the Winter )

Am excited, tonight going to go see Brian Setzer and his Orchestra's Christmas show tonight. Should be fun!


 
 
Current Mood: excited
 
 
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15 December 2012 @ 09:43 am
Advent Day 15: O Holy Night  
Devastated and heartbroken for the people of Newtown, Connecticut and our whole nation. I wasn't sure if I should do this advent calendar today, but after some thought, I decided that distraction is always good for one's mental health.  I don't usually discuss religion or politics here other than the briefest hint (you can tell from my song choices for example).  So I won't overwhelm you now. There's enough preaching going on out there for people much more important and influential than I. I just offer my thoughts and prayers and hope that we can finally move to not just discussion on gun issues but actual action upon them.

Hug your kids for me. Thanks.

Moving on, I'd originally intended to do a fluffy Christmas song for today (I have this all mapped out already) but instead I'm going with what was intended to be tomorrow's choice O Holy Night.

O Holy Night originated as a French poem called “Minuit, chrétiens” by Placide Cappeau (1847). It was soon set to music by Adolphe Adam. The best known English translation was done by Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight in the 1850s. This carol also has the distinction of being the first carol played on a Christmas radio broadcast.  Reginald Fessenden played the song on violin and sang the last verse as part of a Christmas Eve 1906 broadcast from his Brant Rock Massachusetts station to ships at sea.  The broadcast was picked up as far away as Norfolk, Virginia.


O Holy Night )

 
 
Current Mood: sad
 
 
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14 December 2012 @ 09:21 am
Advent Day 14: Mary's Boy Child  
Mary's Boy Child was written in 1956 by African-American songwriter and composer Jester Hairston. It was first recorded that year by Harry Belafonte. Since then the song has been recorded by many other artists including Andy Williams, Nat King Cole, Kiri Te Kanawa, The Little River Band, Juice Newton, John Denver and Tom Jones.

Mary's Boy Child )
 
 
Current Mood: thoughtful
 
 
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13 December 2012 @ 10:12 am
Advent Day 13: Joy to the World  
Joy to the World was written by English hymn writer Issac Watts and based on Psalm 98.  Originally a much longer hymn, only the second half of the lyrics are used today. Watts original hymn was first published in 1719.  In 1839, Lowell Mason set the words to music that was inspired largely by Handel. In the late 20th century, Joy to the World was one of the most published Christmas carols in North America (and may still be). Many artists have included this carol on their Christmas albums.

Joy to the World )
 
 
Current Mood: blah
 
 
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12 December 2012 @ 09:22 am
Advent Day 12: I'll Be Home for Christmas  
Another one of the 40s Christmas songs, I'll Be Home for Christmas was especially poignant for World War II audiences. The song's lyrics reflect a letter from a WWII soldier to the folks back home thinking about Christmastime. The song was written in 1943 by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent. Later Buck Ram's name got added to the credits over a lawsuit involving his earlier song of the same name. Bing Crosby (that staple of 1940s Christmas music) was the first to record the song. It became a hit and was the most requested at USO Christmas parties during the duration of the war. The song has been recorded by numerous artists since then. Although World War II is long over, this song still strikes a chord with anyone who is or has loved ones far from home at Christmastime.

I'll be home for Christmas, you can count on me. )
 
 
Current Mood: cold
 
 
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11 December 2012 @ 09:03 am
Advent Day 11: Caroling, Caroling  

Caroling, Caroling has an unusual background. Alfred Burt was a jazz musician who died in 1954 at the age of 34 from lung cancer. From 1942 to 1954 he composed the music for 15 Christmas carols that were originally intended to be shared on family Christmas cards. Some of them were written by his late father, a minister, others by family friend Wilha Hutson (who wrote the words for Caroling, Caroling). The final one The Star Carol was finished the day before he died. Only one song, Come dear Children was performed outside his circle of friends and family in his lifetime. It's worth noting that the Burts were quite popular people in Hollywood and their Christmas card list included over 400 names, which did get the carols notice. After his death, twelve of his carols were released on an album called “The Christmas Mood” by Columbia Records. After that various other artists recorded his music including Nat King Cole (who popularized Caroling, Caroling).

Caroling Caroling )
 
 
Current Mood: cold
 
 
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10 December 2012 @ 10:00 am
Advent Day 10: Blue Christmas  

The background of Blue Christmas surprised me as I'd always associated the song with Elvis Presley and figured it had been written for him. But the song actually dates back to the 40s.  The song was written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson. It was first recorded by Doye O'Dell in 1948.  In 1949, the song gained in popularity when it was recorded by three acts: country singer Ernest Tubb, bandleader Hugo Winterhalter and his orchestra and Russ Morgan and his orchestra. All three hit various Billboard Charts of the time. Elvis Presley's unique arrangement of the song though is what cemented its status as a Christmas staple.  Presley first recorded his version in 1957 for an LP, it wasn't released as a single until the mid 60s. Quite a few country and rock artists have covered the song since then including The Beach Boys, Lady Antebellum, Big and Rich, Bon Jovi and Vince Gill.

I'll have a blue blue Christmas )

 
 
Current Mood: tired
 
 
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09 December 2012 @ 10:19 am
Advent Day 9--The Christmas Waltz  

The Christmas Waltz was written by Sammy Cahn and Jules Styne for Frank Sinatra in 1954. As usual with Christmas songs, this was actually written in the summer. It was intended to be the B-Side of Sinatra's 1954 cover of White Christmas. The song writers didn't want to try to top Irving Berlin's classic, but Sinatra was insistent on having an original Christmas song. Hunting for ideas, they decided to do a waltz. Sinatra like the result so much that he recorded it for two other Christmas albums. Since then it's been covered by many other artists including Pat Boone, Andy Williams, Jack Jones, The Carpenters, Jane Monheit, Rosemary Clooney and Harry Connick, Jr.
Frosted windowpanes )

 
 
Current Mood: blah
 
 
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08 December 2012 @ 10:49 am
Advent Day 8--Silver Bells  
Silver Bells is one of my most favorite Christmas songs. Those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s probably have memories (mine are fond) of Bob Hope and a female guest star singing this song on his annual Christmas special.  Anyone else miss the era of Christmas specials? Every December, the tv screens would be full of not only the annual cartoons but specials from everybody: Bob Hope, Andy Williams, Perry Como, The Muppets, The Carpenters . . . . We'd watch it all, the most tv I think my family watched a year. Fake holiday snow, big packages, country music specials where all these stars (who we never saw except on the special because we weren't country fans) going to Minnie Pearl's house, carols sung by starlets who couldn't sing, Bob Hope teasing large football players, John Denver and the Muppets. Sigh. I digress and take you back to your regularly scheduled discussion of Silver Bells.
Anyway, Silver Bells was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans for the movie The Lemon Drop Kid. Originally the song was called "Tinkle Bells" until Livingston's wife reminded him of the slang meaning of "tinkle" and they felt it wouldn't be appropriate. In The Lemon Drop Kid (filmed in the summer of 1950), Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell sing the song. Though filmed in 1950, the movie wasn't released until March 1951, during the Christmas season of 1950 Bing Crosby and Carol Richards had released a version. Due to that recording's popularity, Hope and Maxwell had to re-record the film's song to make it more elaborate.  Bing Crosby went on to record the song a few more times both solo and as a duet. Other acts have recorded this song over the years including Gloria Estefan, REM, The Andrews Sisters, Harry Connick Jr, Garth Brooks, Vonda Shepard and Twisted Sister.
It's Christmas Time in the City )
 
 
Current Mood: amused
 
 
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07 December 2012 @ 08:44 am
Advent Day 7--It Came Upon a Midnight Clear  
Today I chose It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. This song is interesting because it has two different melodies. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear originated as a poem by Edmund Sears, a Unitarian pastor, published in 1849. In 1850, the composer Richard Storrs Wills wrote “Carol.” This is the most common melody for “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” used in the United States. An alternative melody called “Noel” which was composed by Arthur Sullivan in 1874 is also used (according to Wikipedia it's the more commonly used one in the UK but it is also an alternative in some US churches).
Many artists across many genres of music have recorded this piece, sometimes even using a completely different tune then the ones above.It Came Upon a Midnight Clear )
 
 
Current Mood: awake
 
 
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06 December 2012 @ 09:41 am
Advent Day 6-Happy Holiday  
And now I bounce back into the secular realm with Happy Holiday. Another World War II era song (there are many), Happy Holiday was written in 1942 by Irving Berlin for the movie Holiday Inn. In the movie, the song is actually performed for New Year's Eve not Christmas but over the years has become a Christmas song. The lyrics of the song that refer to the movie have been dropped in cover versions such as those done by Peggy Lee, Percy Faith, Peggy Lee and Johnny Mathis.
Happy Holiday )
 
 
Current Mood: cheerful
 
 
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05 December 2012 @ 10:47 am
Advent Day 5--Still, Still, Still  
Now we move back into carol territory. Still, Still, Still is an Austrian carol that originated in the area around Salzburg.  It first appeared in print in a folksong collection (1865) by Salzburg Museum founder Maria Vinzenz Süß. That work attributes the song to G. Götsch.  The melody is a folk tune from the State of Salzburg.  There are several English translations of the carol.
Still, Still, Still )
 
 
Current Mood: okay