the music of Christmas, part three

This next CD, I also associate with my father, though properly speaking I don’t know which one of my parents it originated with.

It’s the Peter, Paul, and Mary Christmas album, simply called A Holiday Celebration. This is from some live concert they did — I’ve seen the video — and despite the fact that I have zero interest in or knowledge of that trio outside of this single recording, it’s one of my absolute favorites.

Not everything on it is great. I despise “The Cherry Tree Carol” on general principle, and Mary’s rendition doesn’t help; according to my mother, her voice had very much gone downhill by then. (Mris, you’d probably dislike her performance of “I Wonder As I Wander,” though I’m okay with it.) And, you know, “Blowin’ in the Wind” is an odd choice for the season. But it has a lot of other selections I’ve never heard anywhere else, like “The Magi” and “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” and variety is a good thing to have around this time of year. It also has two Hannukah songs — “Hayo, Haya” and “Light One Candle” — which hold the distinction of being some of the only members of that genre that sound like actual songs in their own right, rather than somebody’s misguided attempt to make Hannukah More Like Christmas. In other words, I believe the songwriters had something they wanted to express about that holiday; they weren’t just cranking something out to provide a Jewish alternative to all the carols. And “Hayo, Haya” is lovely if you’ve got a thing for melancholy, minor songs.

Speaking of which . . .

If there were nothing else I liked on this CD, I would still want to own it, if only for “A Soalin’.” I don’t know if there’s some folklore/musicology term for what I’m thinking of, but it’s in the genre of “beggar songs” in my head, the ones that are about people coming around in the cold of winter and asking for charity, with many blessings for the generous, or for those too poor to share. “Gower Wassail” is another, and “A Pace Egging Song,” though I don’t think that one’s season-specific. (Why do I have these song titles to hand? Because they turned into a story. I should update that page; the story hit print months ago.)

“A Soalin'” is simply beautiful. It’s solemn but quietly hopeful; it has counterpoint and guitar of exactly the sort I love. (And a little bit of irony, thanks to the line “One for Peter, two for Paul; three for Him who made us all” — given who’s performing it.) I very much like “The Magi,” which generally causes my father and I to stop whatever we’re doing and sing along when it comes up on the shuffle, and I’ve already mentioned “Hayo, Haya,” but “A Soalin'” is one of my two favorite tracks on any Christmas album I own. Depending on my mood, it places either first or second. (What’s the other? Wait for tomorrow’s post.)

And if I recall correctly, my father went to great lengths to make sure I would have it. We’d had the CD for a number of years — which may have been difficult to get in the first place; I can’t remember — and it was such a staple of our music rotation that he went the extra mile and got copies for both myself and my brother. Most of my other childhood favorites, I have now because I burned dupes from my parents’ CDs, but this one I properly own. And I’m very glad I do.

0 Responses to “the music of Christmas, part three”

  1. mrissa

    Hanukkah songs that are good on their own: Barenaked Ladies’ “Hanukkah Blessing.” Love that song so much. Who knew I was such a sucker for five geekboys harmonizing in Hebrew (with verses in English)?

    Oh, wait, that’d be everybody.

  2. eclectician

    For unusual, quiet, and thought provoking renditions of Christmas songs, try Snow Angels, by Over the Rhine.

  3. kizmet_42

    Is it truly a Christmas gift if I didn’t post this video and am only passing on the link?

    If so, Merry Christmas.

    If not, enjoy it anyway.

    Peter, Paul and Mary A Soaling.

    • Marie Brennan

      Thanks! I didn’t think to look for a video, but now other people can hear what I mean.

      Interestingly, that is not quite the recording I have, even though the CD is obviously from a live performance. Mine’s a little slower, among other things.

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