The Playground

The Simply Music blog

Seasonal Selections

Found in: Miscellany & Merriment

‘Tis the season to drag out the carols and traditional songs. But do we mindlessly mouth the well-worn words of all those all-too-familiar Christmas standards? We asked the Simply Music staff to tell us about their favorite seasonal songs, and discovered a treasure trove of unexplored gems.

As a starter, we note that a few years ago the BBC conducted a poll to determine the best Christmas carol. The winner was In the Bleak Midwinter by Harold Darke (on iTunes). Let’s see how others’ opinions diverge from this:

Stacie explains, “My favorite Christmas song is one that is not well known and has a funny name. It is called Ding-a-Ling the Christmas Bell by country singer Lynn Anderson from the early 1970s. It is about a bell that rings off key and ends up saving Christmas. I like it because it is not over-played like most Christmas songs on the radio, it has a nice lesson about acceptance, and every time I hear it, it brings a tear to my eye and I am flooded with happy childhood memories of decorating the Christmas tree and opening presents with my family”.

Samantha‘s favorite seasonal song is O Holy Night, especially when performed by Nat King Cole.

As a country and bluegrass performer, Gretta goes for anything with a twang in it: Christmas Time’s a Comin’ — Ricky Skaggs, Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas — Little Big Town, Merry Christmas Baby — Elvis Presley & Gretchen Wilson and The Friendly Beasts — Garth Brooks

Mel has very eclectic tastes, including Deck the Halls by online music pioneers Pomplamoose (and sales benefit the Richmond Book Drive) and the unusual reinterpretation of The Twelve Days of Christmas from Straight No Chaser.

Gordon says:

“The Pogues’ ‘A Fairytale of New York’ is very confronting Christmas fare, but what an uplifting tune!

How to Make Gravy: This humble ballad from Aussie bard Paul Kelly has all the elements of a great story: tragedy, hope and redemption. Just the thing to bring you back to those Christmas values of family and forgiveness.

And we all need to get funky at Christmas. For that, you can’t can’t go past James Brown delivering Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto.

Here’s Robin’s choice:

“I always watched the Peanuts holiday specials as a child. I really related to the piano music and Schroeder, the child prodigy! My other favorite Christmas music is from Raymond Briggs, The Snowman. I find the beautifully animated story, told only with music, to be so moving and the music is simply gorgeous. Finally, as a child, I loved the Christmas Carol: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. The Christmas story is told so beautifully and it always filled me with so much joy and emotion.

Jy gives us a few verses of ‘My Dreidl’:
“I have a little dreidl, I made it out of clay
And when it’s dry and ready, then dreidl I shall play
Oh dreidl, dreidl, dreidl, I made it out of clay…
I have a little dreidl, I made it out of straw
It went eighty miles an hour, and broke the speeding law
Oh dreidl, dreidl, dreidl…
I have a little dreidl, I made it out of bread
I never really spun it, I ate it up instead
Oh dreidl, dreidl, dreidl…
I have a little dreidl, I made it in my mind
Imaginary dreidl, it’s the hardest one to find
Oh dreidl, dreidl, dreidl…
I have a little dreidl, I keep it on the shelf
If you want to sing more verses, you can make them up yourself!

Growing up in a big Jewish family with a lot of music and a lot of noise, I loved this one because everyone made up new verses and it was always really funny. Watching old and young so seriously working to create hilarious verses — each one outdoing the next, without knocking over the 15 or so fully-lit menorahs (candelabras) was quite the holiday adventure!”

Mary K‘s Christmas is nicely noisy:

“Our family favorite, hands down is Handel’s Unto Us A Child Is Born. It has been a long standing tradition on Christmas morning to blast the kids out of bed by playing this about as loud as our speakers could handle. Paul and I would get up early and finish any last minute Christmas ‘choirs’ while listening to Handel’s Messiah. Then when we just couldn’t wait any longer Paul would put this piece on at ear piercing volume and the kids knew it was time to get up. Once when the kids were about 7 and 5 Scott found the tape in the car and insisted we play it. Of course to keep with tradition it had to be at full volume. Imagine the sight, it is 100 degrees outside, we have all of the windows rolled down and we are signing at the top of our lungs Unto Us A Child Is Born in the middle of July. Even now with adult children we always start Christmas morning with this piece loud enough that all of the neighbors know the Ferreters are opening gifts.

Warning: This song is to be played very loud for maximum enjoyment!”

Leave a comment telling us your favorites!