Classical music Christmas

Since I already covered the medieval and Renaissance eras is in my December 4 post todays selections will be from the Baroque, classical and romantic periods.

While Handel’s Messiah rightly holds its place as this country’s classical musical soundtrack for the holiday season (quibble if you will about its Easter message;  there’s nothing wrongJohann_Sebastian_Bach with talking about Easter at Christmas – just ask Bach!), it’s J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio that rings through concert halls throughout Europe at this time of the year.

The six cantatas that make up the Christmas Oratorio, meant to be performed on six separate days throughout the liturgical Christmas season, tell the Christmas story as only Bach could.  With a combination of individual and communal perspective on both the joyful and meditative aspects of the season, it’s a piece that always offers performers the chance to find new perspectives, angles, and ways of expressing eternal thoughts and feelings.

via Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.

Here is part five of the Oratorio

Ode To Joy is the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth and last Symphony. The German composer was increasingly aware of his declining health and spent seven years working on this symphony, starting the work in 1818 and finishing early in 1824. The symphony is one399px-Beethoven of the best known works of the Western classical repertoire and is considered one of Beethoven’s masterpieces.

At the time it was a novel idea to use a chorus and solo voices in a symphony, which is why it’s also called the “Choral” symphony. Beethoven, in fact, had serious misgivings about portraying the music’s message with actual words. Even after the premiere, he apparently came very close to replacing all the vocal lines with instrumental ones.

The words, which are sung by four vocal soloists and a chorus, emanate a strong belief in mankind. They were taken from a poem written by German writer Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and revised in 1803, with additions made by Beethoven. Continue reading

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Christmas music by Jewish artists

Miracles: The Holiday Album is the first holiday album by saxophonist Kenny G. It was released by Arista Records in 1994, and peaked at number 1 on the Billboard 200, Contemporary Jazz Albums and R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts.[3] It was the overall best-selling Christmas/holiday album in the United States for both 1994 and 1996.[4] It sold Kenny-G-Miracles-Cover2,987,000 copies in 1994 and 888,000 copies in 1996.[5]

According to Billboard magazine, Miracles: The Holiday Album is the best-selling Christmas/holiday album of the Nielsen SoundScan era of music sales tracking (March 1991 – present). As of November 2014, the album has sold a total of 7,310,000 copies in the U.S. according to SoundScan.[6]

On January 13, 1999, Miracles: The Holiday Album was certified eight-times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipment of eight million copies in the United States. Miracles: The Holiday Album – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


Although he is better known for his Chanukah song, Adam Sandler did write one for Christmas.

Next time: Classical music Christmas

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The lighter side of Christmas

Today I have three examples of artists who don’t take the Christmas holiday too seriously.

First, from my home state of Texas comes a song that has become a regular part of my holiday listening experience.

“Merry Christmas from the Family” is a holiday soMerry_Christmas_from_the_Familyng written by alternative country artist Robert Earl Keen. It has become extremely popular among the fans within his cult following. The song was first recorded for Keen’s 1994 album, Gringo Honeymoon. A live version also appears on his 1996, No. 2 Live Dinner. The popularity of the song led Keen to write a sequel song, “Happy Holidays Y’all”, for his 1998 album Walking Distance, and to publish a book, Merry Christmas from the Family, in 2001. The original song, the book, and the sequel all center around the same cast of characters in Keen’s humorous vision of a Texas style Christmas. Merry Christmas from the Family – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! is a Grammy Award-winning Christmas special that debuted on Comedy Central on November 23, 2008.

Colbert_christmasThe plot is that Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report, while heading to the film studio to shoot his Christmas special with Elvis Costello, becomes trapped in a cabin in “bear country” (upstate New York or Vermont) when he hears a bear prowling outside. A number of his friends stop by the cabin to sing Christmas songs with him as Stephen tries to find ways to escape the cabin and make his Christmas as special as possible, ending by revealing that the titular “greatest gift of all” is the DVD release of the special.

via A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


Messiah (HWV 56)[1] is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742 and received its London premiere nearly a year later. After an initially modest public reception, the oratorio gained in popularity, eventually becoming one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music. Messiah (Handel) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Here is how a group of high school students imagined it would look if silent monks performed the Messiah.

Next time: Christmas music by Jewish artists

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