Christmas Music

Christmas is nearly upon us, heralded by the first round of parties this weekend. It seems friends are scheduling gatherings ever earlier in the month to avoid conflicts with holiday travel and others’ parties. That’s put me in a holiday mood so I though I’d share my YouTube Christmas playlist, along with some comments about each song. The playlist spans about five centuries and several musical genres, roughly in chronological order.

Gaudete is a medieval carol from the 16th century expressing joy at the birth of Christ. It’s a simple tune that evokes a very different world.

Con amores, la mi madre is a Renaissance song. While not strictly a Christmas carol, its themes of love and faith fit well with the season. I like the song’s warm and gentle tone. Translation of the song’s lyrics are below the video; click “show more.” The only quibble I have with the translation is that fe is translated as loyalty rather than as faith.

Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day was first published in the 19th century but clearly has a much earlier origin. It metaphorically casts the life of Christ as a dance. My favorite line is “Thus was I knit to man’s nature” to describe that Christ was born of woman.

Hey for Christmas is a 17th century tune that shows folks knew how to party back in the day. It recounts a day of dancing, games, and revelry in holiday celebration. I like the song’s lighthearted tone and sense of fun. The link explains the party game of hot cockles.

Good King Wenceslas is a familiar carol dating from the 19th century that embodies the concept of noblesse oblige, which has lately fallen from favor.

Silent Night is another familiar and storied carol. We are spoiled for choice from among many beautiful versions. I like Lindsey Stirling’s rendition because of its haunting quality. Through the magic of track mixing, she supplied all the instrumental and vocal parts.

Celtic Carol is a medley of several Christmas tunes. The playfulness and simple joy makes this video irresistible. Lindsey Stirling’s wonderful sense of humor comes through. It also conveys a sense making do with what you have and finding joy in simple things, sentiments that get lost during the holidays.

Count Your Blessings, used in the film White Christmas, is about gratitude and a sense of perspective about the important things in life.

Away in a Manger is another 19th century carol. I like this bluegrass-inspired rendition because it’s unusual and because of the superb musicianship.

Angels We Have Heard on High in this modern arrangement that is respectful of the original hymn. The video complements the song with beautiful winter scenes.

The First Noel is arranged by the same sisters who performed the previous song. Gratuitous inclusion of children can spoil performances but the youngest sister adds a warmth and a family feeling to the song, and she has a good voice!

Mary Did You Know? is a contemporary Christian song performed with a bluegrass inflection by the same group that did Away in a Manger. I like their enthusiasm.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was written for the musical Meet Me in St. Louis. I used to think the song was depressing and not very Christmas-like until I saw the movie. Seen in the context of the film, the song highlights the importance of family and place over material values. I chose this a capella performance because of its simplicity and elegance. Judy Garland’s superb rendering is also on YouTube and has the advantage of using all the original lyrics.

A Strange Way to Save the World is another contemporary Christian song. I like the tune and the humility expressed in the lyrics.

White Christmas, written by the great Irving Berlin, was the title song for the movie. There are many versions far better than this one but this is the only one I could find that includes the introductory lyrics (below in the video). Berlin was living in LA when he wrote the song; he mentions “orange and palm trees sway[ing]” and how he’s “longing to be up north.” We’ll be spending the holidays in Boston and I’m hoping for snow (but not till after we get there). Meanwhile, I’m here among the orange and palm trees.

Grown-Up Christmas List. Children love Christmas because of the presents. As an adult, I can buy myself whatever I want so my Christmas wishes are for other things. The video is a nice complement to the sentiments expressed in the song. A few years ago I asked family to only give me gifts they made themselves, or preferably, nothing at all. This proved wildly unpopular but I did receive a few items that I treasure because they were so personal.

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Author: drlorentz

photon whisperer & quantum mechanic

37 thoughts on “Christmas Music”

  1. I like “A Strange Way to Save the World” too.  I heard it first from this group.

    I will add this instrumental from The Piano Guys of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. When I hear this it gives me chills? I can’t tell if it comes from the cello, piano, or the lyrics.  (Almost 30 millions views can’t be all wrong.)

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  2. I love to sing, and Christmas is the only time of year that most people ever do it!  I always have a piano player at my Christmas party and I sing every minute I can, given hostessing  duties, and so do my guests.  I’ve tried having a player  at other holidays but nobody ever sings.   Just one more wonderful thing about Christmas!

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  3. Hypatia:
    I love to sing, and Christmas is the only time of year that most people ever do it!  I always have a piano player at my Christmas party and I sing every minute I can, given hostessing  duties, and so do my guests.  I’ve tried having a player  at other holidays but nobody ever sings.   Just one more wonderful thing about Christmas!

    Christmas is the only holiday that I know that has the custom of walking around and singing. What other holiday has songs that people can sing, Hyp?

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  4. drlorentz,

    Youtube chose to follow your playlist with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney and the extended “White Christmas” from the movie.

    They followed that with “Away in a Manger” by the Redhead Express.

    I don’t know if that is a selection they generated on account of my location.   It can’t be from my search history, because that would have turned up this:

     

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  5. 10 Cents:

    Hypatia:
    I love to sing, and Christmas is the only time of year that most people ever do it!  I always have a piano player at my Christmas party and I sing every minute I can, given hostessing  duties, and so do my guests.  I’ve tried having a player  at other holidays but nobody ever sings.   Just one more wonderful thing about Christmas!

    Christmas is the only holiday that I know that has the custom of walking around and singing. What other holiday has songs that people can sing, Hyp?

    Love songs on Valentine’s Day!  Plenty of Irish songs on St Patrick’s Day!  But true, Itinerant “caroling” isn’t a custom on any holiday except Christmas.

    oh and then there’s  all the patriotic songs on 7/4, but we sing those around a bonfire..O Beautiful, God Bless America, Star Spangled Banner, Battle Hymn of the Republic (no, forget I mentioned that last, I don’t wanna trigger the Dixie- Rattys again!) Yankee Doodle Dandy, Grand Old Flag….

    At my Trump inauguration party, I printed out the words to Hail to the Chief (yes, it does have lyrics! ) and put a copy on everybody’s placemat, and we belted that out!  It is really a great and totally American  song!

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  6. I love this list too!  But – when I click on the highlighted text in each of DocLor’s picks it just takes me to the wikipedia about the song, not a specific audio of it. I was hoping to just click thru & hear each, but I guess I’ll have to google them to find the version he means? I know, I’m lazy.

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  7. A sweet and tender Advent carol is Arcanioł Boży Gabriel, which is “Gabriel, Archangel of God.”

    A very famous music critic discusses this carol in the context of Polish Advent traditions here.

    Obyś miał Błogosławiony Adwent!

    This very famous music critic offers full lyrics and multiple youtube renditions over here.

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  8. Pencilvania:
    I love this list too!  But – when I click on the highlighted text in each of DocLor’s picks it just takes me to the wikipedia about the song, not a specific audio of it. I was hoping to just click thru & hear each, but I guess I’ll have to google them to find the version he means? I know, I’m lazy.

    I thought the same. One of the first links takes you to a YouTube playlist. Once the playlist is up you can see which group.

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  9. jzdro:
    A sweet and tender Advent carol is Arcanioł Boży Gabriel, which is “Gabriel, Archangel of God.”

    A very famous music critic discusses this carol in the context of Polish Advent traditions here.

    Obyś miał Błogosławiony Adwent!

    This very famous music critic offers full lyrics and multiple youtube renditions over here.

    I’d love to be in Poland for a Christmas someday!  At the wedding we attended last fall, I was so moved when the men initiated singing at the tables! Stolat Lyet,  of course, and one  to the tune of O Tannenbaum.  It was thrilling!  And I love it when I can get my male guests to sing! Some will and some won’t—but I can’t imagine American men initiating singing at a feast!

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  10. Hypatia:
    And I love it when I can get my male guests to sing! Some will and some won’t—

    Good for you, and best of luck to you in such a worthy effort.  Just think, 150 years ago the men were in Glee Clubs and Barbershop Quartets all over.  May you revive the practice, and have a good time doing so!

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  11. I found this song made me think as it comes from thoughts of Mary as an unwed mother. The title “A Baby Changes Everything” is an update of Emmanuel, isn’t it?

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  12. One of my favorite Christmas songs is a country tune from circa 1990 called “Calico Christmas” by Jack Houston. I posted about it last year when I was a contributor at the legacy site, but the embedded video I used no longer works.

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  13. By the way, my old post was the first hit on DuckDuckGo when I entered the search term “Calico Christmas Jack Houston”, but didn’t appear at all when I entered that same search term on Google. It appears Google has shadowbanned the legacy site. Just shows what playing nice with the left gets you.

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  14. Thanks to everyone for adding more music to this thread.

    We’ve just returned from our Christmas revels. Someone brought this yule log. You might imagine it was store bought but it wasn’t. The creator of this masterpiece gave me a detailed tutorial on how to make such a thing: three different temperatures for the annealing and crystallization of the chocolate, how to make and roll the crepe-like pastry, and how to sculpt the mushrooms (they’re meringue). She made is sound so easy. I found out later that she’s a pastry chef. Easy… yeah right.

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  15. RB49:
    I’m Jewish, but I absolutely love this one.  And done by the right group, too.

    Then I’ll add this favorite of mine. When I was a college student, I’d always attend the Latke–Hamantash Debate. My math professor was on the side of hamantashen one year. I never forgave him.

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  16. Pencilvania:
    I love this list too!  But – when I click on the highlighted text in each of DocLor’s picks it just takes me to the wikipedia about the song, not a specific audio of it. I was hoping to just click thru & hear each, but I guess I’ll have to google them to find the version he means? I know, I’m lazy.

    Sorry if it was unclear. The link to the playlist is in the beginning of the post. Click on this

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  17. drlorentz:
    Thanks to everyone for adding more music to this thread.

    We’ve just returned from our Christmas revels. Someone brought this yule log. You might imagine it was store bought but it wasn’t. The creator of this masterpiece gave me a detailed tutorial on how to make such a thing: three different temperatures for the annealing and crystallization of the chocolate, how to make and roll the crepe-like pastry, and how to sculpt the mushrooms (they’re meringue). She made is sound so easy. I found out later that she’s a pastry chef. Easy… yeah right.

    Did you put this picture of this Yule Log up to torture me?

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  18. jzdro:

    Hypatia:
    And I love it when I can get my male guests to sing! Some will and some won’t—

    Good for you, and best of luck to you in such a worthy effort.  Just think, 150 years ago the men were in Glee Clubs and Barbershop Quartets all over.  May you revive the practice, and have a good time doing so!

    How I wish you all could come to my party,O Ratty!  It’s Dec 21 (the shortest day!) in case anyone happens to be passing through our little piece of Appalachia….

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