The Freedom of Music: The Season’s First Christmas Present
One likes to believe in the freedom of music.Rush – Spirit of Radio.
Early this month the website Landmark Report had a Mark Steyn/Jessica Martin Christmas CD, Making Spirits Bright, giveaway. Write us about your favourite part of Christmas (“what’s you’re favourite?” as Buddy the Elf might ask), and the top ten will win a CD. Seeing as I like to write, like Mark Steyn and Christmas is my favourite, I dutifully sat and composed a short essay on Christmas music.
I am glad to say, I won. Here’s what I wrote:
For me Christmas is about the music. All of it. The deeply religious music of the baroque, the pop standards of the post war era or the rock pop songs that have become so common. Give me a snowy day in December and a song with the word Christmas somewhere, anywhere, in it, and I am somehow moved.
“There’s something about Christmas time,” Bryan Adams sings. In what is an otherwise mediocre song, I get chills when Adams sings about Christmas. The week before Christmas my iPod runneth over with repeat playings of Debbie Gibson singing Sleigh Ride. Music I would never listen to otherwise, becomes must listen, and begins to define how I feel. I even love angry, hate-filled, right wing columnist to the world types singing about a world made of Marshmallow. Tres fromage, for sure, but somehow wonderful.
It’s not all bad, however. Besides Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man Desiring or Handel’s Messiah, masterpieces at any time of year, the popular culture has produced some wonderful Christmas songs. Whether Irving Berlin’s White Christmas or one of the many beautiful versions of Silent Night (my personal favourite), popular music has it’s moments of sublime Christmas beauty. Consider the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York, a lush piece with surprising depth; Murray McLauchlan, with Paul Hyde and Tom Cochrane, three Canadians doing the Celtic tinged Let the Good Guys Win; Heavy Metal kings Twisted Sister turning O Come All Ye Faithful on it’s head to wonderful effect.
There is something about Christmas time, something that brings the very best out of a wide variety of artists.
I could probably have gone on from there and, in truth, on rereading the essay feels unfinished. But it was good enough to get the job done, and sometimes that’s enough.
My CD dutifully arrived at the median point between when I won it, Dec 4th, and Christmas. That is to say, I’ve had it now a little over a week.
The CD itself is fun, and throughly enjoyable. As a singer, Steyn thankfully has a day job. It’s not that he’s bad, mind, it’s that the style of music usually requires better. The duo get away with Steyn’s singing because: he never takes himself too seriously; he takes the music seriously; the arrangements are excellent; so is Jessica Martin. A big part of the fun of the CD is listening to Mark Steyn have fun – you can hear the grin on his face.
Christmas is a fun light time, and this is a fun light album. It is, in fact, my new favourite.