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Christmas Music Feature

  • Updated Feb 01, 2002
Christmas Music Feature

by Mike & Paula Parker
for the Music Channel

When I was a kid, Christmas was the holiday that came after Thanksgiving. Today it starts sometime between Labor Day and Columbus Day, with brief intermissions for Boss's Day, Veterans Day, the Eve of All Saints, Sweetest Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Hanukkah. Between the pumpkins, turkeys, Santas and Frosties, it can be a bit confusing to figure out just exactly when the most wonderful time of the year actually begins. Personally, I still wait for the big football weekend after TurkeyDay before I start decorating. Still, with all those chestnuts for roasting and marshmallows for toasting, it won't be long before we hear the ting-a-ling of silver bells being rung by a thousand street-corner Santas, reminding us of those less fortunate than ourselves.

My earliest memories of the season were of the simple decorations in our home. Mom would roll out the cotton batting over the old Philco television set, creating a miniature Winter Wonderland, complete with Santa in his sleigh, and eight teeny, tiny reindeer. Mouth-watering aromas of spice cakes, cherry pies, pecan fudge, and other Christmas confections filled the house, mingling with the sweet tang of pine from the Christmas tree. And on the hi-fi, Bing Crosby crooning "White Christmas," or Tennessee Ernie Ford reverently singing "The Star Carol."

Today I've got a wife and kids, a mortgage, and career. There's ballet practice for the girls, guitar lessons for the boy, don't forget to take the dog to the vet, and oh yeah, there is rehearsal for the church Christmas play. With the days crowding in upon each other, and 101 activities vying for my attention, it can be a bit challenging to remember what this season is all about. That's when I microwave a cup of spiced cider, and put a little Christmas music on the stereo. There is just something about those familiar melodies that puts things back into perspective.

Every year there seems to be a bumper crop of great, new Christmas albums, but the past few years seems to have been especially productive. Remember {{First Call}}'s amazing ==Beyond December==, or {{Gary Chapman}}'s down home ==This Gift==? This year is no exception with wonderful new projects by some of the biggest, and smallest, names in the business.

Topping this year's list is ==A Christmas to Remember==, {{Amy Grant}}'s third holiday project. Following a tradition that started sixteen years ago with ==A Christmas Album== and continued nine years later with ==Home For Christmas==, ==A Christmas To Remember== is destined to become an instant classic. Drawing on her traditional Christmas concert heritage, Amy's latest features big orchestral underpinnings to old favorites, and introduces a few brand new tunes as well. Standouts include the {{Chris Rice}} penned, "Welcome To Our World," and "Highland Cathedral," which features accompaniment by the fabulous Nashville Pipe and Drum Corps.

For those who like to combine the traditional with the contemporary, the fem fab four, {{Point of Grace}}, offer their first Christmas album, ==A Christmas Story==. Along with their customary impeccable harmonies, and exquisite production values, Point of Grace offers the listener a broad range of musical settings. Lush orchestral accompaniments flow easily through swing, pop, traditional and even (gasp!) a dash of rock. Along with the requisite carols like "Joy To The World" and "O Holy Night," and winter celebration songs like "Let It Snow" and "Sleigh Ride," Point of Grace introduces five new Christmas songs that have 'classic' written all over them.

==Majesty & Wonder== - an instrumental Christmas is great choice for those who appreciate the artistry involved in instrumental music. Arguably one of the finest guitarists in the world today, {{Phil Keaggy}} teams up with the London Festival Orchestra to produce an album that captures all the subtle nuances of traditional carols. "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desire" highlights Keaggy's remarkable control as he deftly interprets this classical ode. And "Good Christian Men Rejoice" sports a thinly veiled Celtic flair. "Silent Night" features a mellow jazz feel while retaining its traditional power and melody. Throughout the project, both Keaggy and the LFO play with passion and clarity, but never stray from the inherent integrity of the songs they are interpreting.

With the Big Band craze in full "swing", it was inevitable that someone would come out with a Christmas album to celebrate that genre. {{Kathy Troccoli}} lends her rich alto to ==A Sentimental Christmas==, exploring the breathy side of the season. Whether you like it "hot" or "cool," Kathy delivers with passion and enthusiasm. Best cuts include "It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year," a duet with veteran crooner, Andy Williams, and the original love song, "Only Always."

Whether you started your Christmas shopping immediately after the 4th of July, or you love the bustle of last minute bargain hunting; whether you brave the crowds at the mall or do your shopping online, there are going to moments during this holiday season when you will be overwhelmed by the rush. Grab a hot cup of cider, put some Christmas music on the stereo, and allow yourself to remember what it was like when you were a kid, or what it might have been like when your parents were kidsor perhaps what it was like one starry night, two thousand years ago when Love was born.

Other titles you might be interested in

{{Dennis Jernigan}}:
==Like Christmas All Year 'Round==
Here To Him Music

Touched By An Angel:
The Christmas Album
Myrrh Records

Various Artists
==Midnight Clear==
ForeFront Records

{{Michael W. Smith}}:
Reunion Records

{{Amy Grant}}:
==Home For Christmas==
Myrrh Records

{{Jars of Clay}}:
==Drummer Boy==
{{Anne Murray}}:
==Best of the Season==
Sparrow Records
{{Amy Grant}}:
==A Christmas Album==
Myrrh Records
{{Martina McBride}}:
==White Christmas==
Sparrow Records
{{Janet Paschal}}:
Spring Hill