As a church musician, I get to play a lot of Christmas music around the holidays; and I love it. Last weekend, I played an hour of carols at the Elms of Cranbury, a nursing home. Despite an hour-long drive through an ice storm and the challenge of sticking keys on an out-of-tune Wurlitzer, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a gig more. The residents and staff were most receptive; you’d have thought we’d brought a choir of seraphim rather than our motley, alto-heavy, Congregational contingent.
Carol sings are great fun – the week before Christmas. But there’s also a side of me that seeks to keep the tunes special by not bringing them out too early at home. It bothers me that many stores blare holiday music at us almost as soon as summer is over. After being out “In the Bleak Midwinter,” dealing with careless drivers and manic shoppers, I sometimes want to escape the holiday din.
Silber Records feels my pain. For years, they’ve been providing some of the best holiday compilations – for free – for ambient electronica fans. This year’s collection – Winterized – takes a break from downbeat covers of upbeat carols to supply wintry slices of music-making sans commercialism.
On the commercial end of things, two of their new releases, Northern Valentine and Hotel Hotel, are well worth paying for; they both create evocative soundscapes that are inventively structured and varied in hue. They’re just the thing to banish that irritating version of “Jingle Bell Rock” you couldn’t escape at the restaurant…
Happy Holidays to all. Below, a few cheerful pictures from home, France, and Westminster. -Christian