The Locker Room

December 22, 2004

Wading into the Christmas music fray

Posted by Jon Sanders at 8:29 PM

My favorite Christmas carol is also "O Holy Night." The words are absolutely beautiful. I especially love the poetry of

A thrill of hope,
A weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks
A new and glorious morn!

It's the soaring music that I love most. And this love has a personal aspect to it. I played the baritone in high school band, and for once we two baritones in the band had a melody — for "O Holy Night." But on the night of the performance, my peer was ill, so I defaulted into a solo performance. And I poured my heart into it. I don't know how it sounded out there, but I believe I played flawlessly.

I have yet to find the perfect recording of this tune. To my ears, someone always messes it up. I desire the song to be performed simply, elegantly, and most importantly, without ostentation — let the natural flow of the music dip and swell as it will. Of all the recordings I've heard, when the arrangement isn't off-putting, the vocalist gives into the understandable temptation to frolic through the melodic richness and goes astray. It offends me when a vocalist attempts an arrangement that is out of his or her range, or when he or she "cheats" on the high notes by beginning on a lower note and sliding up ("Oh heeeeear the angels' vo-OICES / Oh ni-IIIIIIGHT divi-IIIIIINE"). I know the song is out of my range; I wouldn't do it the injustice of attempting it in public. One arrangement I've heard is very rich, but it contains the maddening (to me) detail of crowding the verses (e.g., one vocalist starts in on "This is the night" as the first vocalist is still on the "shi" of "the stars are brightly shining").

Also: Thanks to the SumJenn™ the Conqueror Christmas album, I heard the Johnny Cash rendition of "What Child Is This." A raw, powerful and moving performance.

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Re: Christmas Songs

Posted by Paul Chesser at 5:27 PM

Like I said, Drew, I realize that much of the secular celebration doesn't take away from the true Christmas focus for others, much of just does for me. And my kids enjoy much more of that stuff than I do, and I let them, because I don't want to ruin it for them. Besides, I enjoy watching them enjoy it -- as long as they know the truth about it.

And I appreciate some of the secular trappings of Christmas: lights, decorated homes, holiday parties, food glorious food, etc. It's just when Santa is exalted that, to me, pushes Christ to the sideline. I don't think there's room for dual-holiday meanings when one of them is the story of God Incarnate.

But I will say for the last time: That's just me.

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In Defense of Mockery As Criticism

Posted by Jon Sanders at 5:12 PM

The gang that brought us such ideas as "conservative money is tainted" and "nobody at UNC-Chapel Hill wants a Western Civilization program" is also behind the idea that mockery isn't incisive criticism. Aristotle, Juvenal, H.L. Mencken, F.H. Buckley and I say otherwise.

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Posted by Hal Young at 4:53 PM

Agreed on Johnny Cash's "What Child Is This?" The perfect singer for the song.

Re: the enjoyment of all things Christmas, Drew, my favorite Christmas album is Johnny Mathis'. One side was sacred, one side secular, and both sides were played liberally by my conservative parents. None of the secular songs were sappy, as long as you can live with "Sleigh Ride" again ...

But whenever someone mentions "O Holy Night" or "Winter Wonderland", I hear his version in my head. The LP's old maybe, but fully tested and approved.

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Re: Reason for the Season

Posted by Andrew Cline at 4:23 PM

Of course it's amazing. It's Johnny Cash. I get choked up listening to "One Piece At A Time."

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Re: Reason for the Season

Posted by Jenna Ashley Robinson at 3:50 PM

Paul, if you want a blow-me-away religious Christmas song, I highly reccommend Johnny Cash's rendition of "What Child Is This?" It's amazing. And what's more it includes all the words.

The second stanza is the one most often left out:

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

In case you're interested, a short history: In 1865, William Chatterton Dix published "The Manger Throne." Three stanzas were later culled from that poem and fitted to "Greensleeves," a traditional English folk song, thus creating "What Child Is This?"

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Re: Christmas Songs

Posted by Jenna Ashley Robinson at 3:44 PM

Even though this may not technically be a Christmas song, I enjoy "Ave Maria," vocals with piano, inspired by Bach. I have a version on my computer at home which is tear-jerking, but, do to the means in which I downloaded the song, I cannot be sure who is the pianist or vocalist.

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Ten Minutes with the President

Posted by Jenna Ashley Robinson at 3:42 PM

I hate to spoil the serious tone set by Dominick the Italian Donkey, but Roy will survive to blog another day another way, maybe even usefully.

Assad Meymandi of the JLF Board challenged some friends to write what they would say to the president if granted a brief audience. Here's my version, and maybe others would like to respond.

Mr. President,

You are now free from reelection politics and can think about how you want to be remembered. Summon America and the world to a "New Age of Liberty" encompassing "democracy" abroad and the "ownership society" at home but not limited to them. "Liberty" is the appropriate term, a right of mankind under the Natural Law given by our Creator, proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

Democracy is not enough, because the majority can oppress minorities, whereas Liberty is secured by enforcement of rights in property, which the Declaration defined as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Many peoples have little Liberty, and even in America guaranteed liberties have been weakened by unconstitutional laws and court misinterpretations. Judged by constitutional standards there is considerable illegal governmental interference in our lives.

The foreign policy tools are cooperation, information, education, technical and financial assistance and free trade. Where terrorists and rogue states threaten Liberty sanctions or force may be necessary.

At home, cut back and try to eliminate federal functions not authorized in the Constitution. Individuals or their associations can provide for social needs more effectively at a cost far less than if done by government.

Tax rates should be low, ideally paying for only enough government for defense and to protect property and other civil rights. Low taxes will provide powerful incentives to work and save, which will produce the strongest possible economy.

Enforcement of individual rights in property is important for Liberty and indeed to an American ownership society. Enforce the Bill of Rights, especially the Takings Clause of Article V, which prohibits government from expropriating individuals' rights in their properties. Some think this a rich man's right, but the poor suffer most from regulatory barriers and need unrestricted opportunity to pursue happiness, to make a career, to hold what they have earned, without restriction. Encourage all nations to adopt similar rights.

Justices who will enforce the Constitution are crucial to this restored Liberty, because the Constitution is designed to limit government. Fight for confirmation without compromise.

Challenge the world to enter this New Age of Liberty with America as it renews its commitment to its founding principles.

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Re: Re: Christmas songs

Posted by Andrew Cline at 3:27 PM

Paul, that's why I called them pop Christmas songs. They are pop songs about the holiday, not hymns. I love the hymns, but I think one can enjoy the secular trappings of the season without losing the meaning of Christmas. Christmas always has been a mix of the secular and religious, and I've always found it more enjoyable because of that.

And by the way, my favorite hymn is "Silent Night." Must be the Lutheran in me.

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Re: Christmas Songs

Posted by Paul Chesser at 3:12 PM

OK, at the risk of accusations saying I'm a Grinch about Santa Claus and Christmas in general, I am going to reveal my true feelings about the songs cited as various favorites in the blog today. I don't like most of them.

Why? I must be getting old, or I've been brainwashed by my evangelical pastors for too long, or by too many "Jesus is the reason for the season" slogans. Each year I have found I have a greater distaste for Christmas music that doesn't focus on Christ, and instead plays up everything else that has nothing to do with Him: Santa Claus, sugar plums, Frosty, partridges in pear trees, favorite things, etc. Understand that I'm sure it doesn't have that effect for many of you; it just does for me.

My kids don't believe in Santa Claus. They know the story and enjoy the TV specials about him, but they know he doesn't exist. It doesn't take away from the holiday for them, though, as far as I can tell. They anticipate it as much as other children. But for them they know that everything is real: we celebrate because Christ was born to save mankind and later died for our sins, and that we exchange gifts with one another as a celebration of that, by demonstrating a sacrifice on our own parts to give to others. The gifts don't come because of mythical figure who judges them worthy based on naughtiness or niceness. They are just like other kids and are excited about getting new stuff, but are much more enthusiastic about giving gifts than I ever was at Christmastime. Maybe that says a lot more about me than how we celebrate the holiday.

I listen to all the songs because my kids enjoy them all, but I simply tolerate the ones that aren't oriented towards the Savior (although I don't tolerate John Lennon either, Drew -- I turn it off). That said, my favorite Christmas song is "O Holy Night." Deniece Williams, of "Let's Hear It For the Boy" from "Footloose" fame, performed a version of it years ago at my church in Los Angeles that blew me out of the auditorium -- unforgettable.

And at that same church we had a baritone vocalist, Jubilant Sykes, who moved everyone to tears nearly every time he sang. If you're in an experimenting mood, try him out, and if you ever get a chance to see him live, go. "Mary, Did You Know?" -- wow.

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To Hell with the fish

Posted by Paul Chesser at 2:50 PM

The Washington Post reports today that the Bush administration agreed to pay farmers in California for profits lost due to water restrictions placed upon them by the Federal government in 1992 and 1994 in an attempt to save endangered fish during a drought.

Property rights advocates hailed the settlement between the Justice Department and several thousand farmers from five San Joaquin Valley water districts, who lost as much as a third of their water deliveries in 1992 and 1994, when a long drought threatened the survival of the area's chinook salmon and delta smelt populations. The agreement affirmed a federal judge's 2001 decision that federal authorities' decisions to conserve water for the fish violated farmers' property rights.

The farmers' lawyer, Roger Marzulla, who served in the Justice Department's environmental division under President Ronald Reagan, said the government will no longer be able to deny citizens use of their land or water without compensation, even if a species is in trouble.

"The principle has been established that if the federal government does take water rights . . . then the federal government must pay for that water," Marzulla said in a telephone interview. "It is now on the books."

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Music Madness

Posted by Jeff A. Taylor at 2:47 PM

Well, now that Roy has hit us with the donkey, I have no choice but to go nuclear.

Behold the Tijuana Christmas!

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Re: Greatest pop Christmas songs ever

Posted by Jeff A. Taylor at 2:20 PM


You forgot "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses
circa 1981

Here's a snipit:

A&P has provided me
With the world's smallest turkey
Already in the oven, nice and hot
Oh damn! Guess what I forgot?

So on with the boots, back out in the snow
To the only all-night grocery,
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
In the line is that guy I've been chasing all year!

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Would "Disability Studies" have prevented this?

Posted by Jon Sanders at 2:12 PM

DUNN — A one-armed man is wanted for questioning after a sexual assault at a Dunn nursing center.

An employee at Integrated Health Systems of Dunn, a nursing and rehabilitation center on Susan Tart Road, entered the facility’s den Sunday morning to find a 50-year-old mentally impaired, wheelchair-bound female patient involved in a sex act with a one-armed man, police said. The man reportedly fled on foot.

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Your Moment of Christmas Zen...

Posted by Jenna Ashley Robinson at 12:40 AM

And you thought that Dominick the Christmas Donkey was the only farm animal involved in Christmas!

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How many taxpayers are needed per UNC-Chapel Hill student?

Posted by Jon Sanders at 12:12 AM

UNC-Chapel Hill's news service put out the following factoid today: "the North Carolina General Assembly's appropriation per in-state student at Carolina is $17,132."

Using George's eminently useful technique of examining UNC expenditures, that means it takes over 20 NC taxpayers to put just one student from NC into UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Greatest pop Christmas songs ever

Posted by Andrew Cline at 12:12 AM

Hey Paul, I'd rather hear Bob Seger's "Little Drummer Boy" than John Lennon's "So This is Christmas" or anything from Manheim Steamroller.

Here are the pop Christmas tunes that spend the most time in my CD player this time of year:

"Father Christmas" by The Kinks.

"Is That You, Santa Claus?" by Louis Armstrong.

"Good King Wenceslas", "Santa Claus, Come Straight to the Ghetto", and "Mr. Grinch" by Mojo Nixon.

"'Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Wynton Marsalis.

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Diana Krall.

"Linus and Lucy" by Vince Guaraldi

"Merry Jingle" by The Greedies

"Merry Christmas" by The Ramones

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To all my Pisans

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 09:55 AM

This is real Christmas music.

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In the Christmas Spirit

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 09:54 AM

I know this song didn't start as a Christmas one, but it has become one over the years and it's one of our (collective) favorites:

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with string
These are a few of my favourite things

Cream-coloured ponies and crisp apple struedel
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodle
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favourite things

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling bad
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don't feel so bad

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favourite things

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling bad
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don't feel so bad

Of course, only the Julie Andrews version will do. The Barbara Streisand version, where the tune is barely recognizable, is not an acceptable substitute.

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Re: Bing, Etc.

Posted by Paul Chesser at 08:35 AM

Every copy of Bob Seger's version of "The Little Drummer Boy" ought to be found and destroyed.

Oh, and also Stevie Nicks's butcher job of "Silent Night."

SumJenn™, don't try this at home.

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Don't forget Satchmo!

Posted by Jon Sanders at 08:30 AM

Paul & Hal, I play CDs in the car, so I don't have to suffer through radio Christmas songs. Thus no suffering in my car from, say, Bruce Springsteen popping veins over "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town."

Last night my four-year-old's first requested Christmas song was Louis Armstrong's rendition of "Zat You, Santa Claus?" We both sang along to it (although with my seasonal allergies, I've got perpetual Morning Voice, so at some points I think I was singing two octaves lower).

Wouldn't mind hearing John Hood perform that one next at the next Locke Christmas shindig...

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Re: Bing, etc

Posted by Hal Young at 08:20 AM

I was assigned to a field project last year with a co-worker who discovered 24/7 Christmas music about mid-September ... and he controlled the radio. Given, it was an improvement on some of the other stations available in Raleigh, but how many covers of "The Little Drummer Boy" are there? Answer: Way too many.

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Burl, Bing, Madison, Delilah

Posted by Paul Chesser at 08:14 AM

I suspect the reason that round-the-clock holiday music has become popular (and profitable) for some radio stations is that their listeners have kids who demand Christmas tunes every time they get in the car. And those listeners also have three-year-olds who have taught themselves how to turn on the home stereo to hear the incessant jingles. And those very-same children, in Raleigh at least, think the "Sunny 93.9" jingle is another holiday uplifter and that Delilah is a requisite character for the annual Christmas atmosphere.

But of course I wouldn't know anything about this first-hand and I'm just guessing...

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Re: Curious about Christmas

Posted by Hal Young at 07:54 AM

Okay, this morning's message was a twofer -- an Air Force couple named Greenburg sent wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hannukah to their families stateside from their base in Alaska.

So maybe it's not Department of Defense, but just Camp Caldwell, Iraq, which is encouraging happy [generic seasonal] holidays [lower case].

Paul, you wouldn't make yucky faces if you'd ever had my wife's fruitcake. It doesn't linger on from year to year, and it's not flammable, either.

BTW I can recommend the German fruitcake available this time of year at Aldi ... though the less expensive stollen, the one in the plastic package, rather than the luxury model in the ritzy red box. We tried the latter last weekend and it's definitely an adult cake; leastwise, you have to be 21 to buy the ingredients.

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