Friday, December 4, 2009

December 4, 2009 - For the Holidays

I have to say I'm enjoying this holiday season so far. I never know when it's going to hit me but I think because work has been manageable and fairly stress free I've been able to fall into the pleasantries of the season pretty quickly. This year the long and relaxing Thanksgiving weekend gave me a great excuse to get the Christmas tree up and at least partially decorated, just the lights so far, but that's the best part for me. It's been a week and we had our first snowfall in Madison last night. Just enough to cover the ground and make things look, well, like Christmas, but also enough to cause some stress during the evening rush hour. Luckily I was cozy at home and didn't have to deal with it. So, still being in the holiday mood I decided to search out some new Christmas music today on iTunes. There's always a few new CDs that are worth downloading.

This year I have two to recommend. The first is "Christmas Cheers" by Straight No Chaser, an a cappella men's singing group that started at Purdue University in my home state of Indiana. This is the first I've heard of them but they actually have two Christmas albums out with some non-seasonal music mixed in. I have a soft spot in my heart for really good a cappella groups and this group is one of the best I've heard. They offer beautiful arrangements of traditional songs with the addition of some novelty and humor in unique renditions of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," a concoction of well known holiday tunes merged with the traditional lyrics, and "We Three Kings" with a Mission Impossible theme. Some are pretty clever, and one or two are a little over-the-top for me. My favorites? I love the Charlie Brown classic "Christmastime is Here," "Carol of the Bells," and a new song called "Indiana Christmas." I had many good years growing up in Northern Indiana and it's great to have a song to remind me, it's still home.

The other CD is Sting's "If on a Winter's Night," a haunting collection of traditional carols and lullabies spanning centuries. This is not your typical holiday CD so it's not for everyone, especially those who expect the pop sounds of The Police or even Sting's later works. Sting defies labeling but his artistry and talent is inspiring. The CD is growing on me but I have to say my favorite song so far is "Soul Cake," a song I first heard from Peter, Paul and Mary.

I should also mention that Straight No Chaser will be featured in a television special on PBS stations this month so check your local listings. In the meantime check out the new music of the season and add to your collection. I love Christmas music if only for it's innately positive spirit. Have a wonderful week and I'll try to be better about posting, but you know how it goes. m

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