Saturday, December 23, 2017

Reset: A Christmas Festival!

Thank you for indulging me, dear reader, in my last entry, which was something of a pity party. The feelings in it were real and heartfelt, but the mindset producing those feelings was toxic.

I have never seen my work as busy as it was today. The whole week has been inexorably building to this apotheosis of consumerism, and the attitudes leaking down from on high were really wearing on me. I didn't put in as many hours as my friend and boss Haley, who seems determined to run herself into the ground, but I still managed two shifts worth of extra time this period.

Writing out that bile-pile helped. Writing usually does. Attending Grand River Unitarian's solstice service helped as well. I'm sore, I'm tired, I have new cuts and scrapes galore...but I'm back on solid ground.

It's Christmas in a couple of days. It will be just another day for us here: as usual, I'm working. Eva's on call all day.  There will be turkey -- if a small one can still be procured somewhere tomorrow -- so that end of things is attended to. But this year more than most, it doesn't resemble most folks' idea of Christmas here. Our Christmases have been scattered out--at least one is going to wait until the new year.

And that's okay. That's life.

In an effort to get some Christmas up in this place, I'm going to share with you some of my personal Christmas traditions. Needless to say, they're musical. You'd think I'd be sick of carols along about now: they've been going nonstop for a solid month, and I am utterly incapable of not hearing music if it's playing.  But I'm not, because I've only heard six of them. Six carols.

I'm not kidding. By my count, there are five (!!!)  different renditions of Last Christmas in rotation at work, three different Sleigh Rides, a Winter Wonderland,  and an utterly HIDEOUS version of the Twelve Days of Christmas, artist unknown, that seems to switch key signatures every six or eight bars. Then there's the Little Drummer Boy, and of course Paul McCartney's abomination we all know and I will not name. And also that gawd-awful Do They Know It's Christmas?

Stinkers all, no offence if I just named your favourite carol. Actually, if your favourite carol is McCartney's schlock, I mean all the offence.  You have no taste.

Now that I'm off work for a day and can breathe a little, I'll give you some of the carols and versions that I don't have to cover my ears for.

From earliest childhood, it wasn't Christmas until I'd heard a few run-throughs of this:

This calls my Mom forcibly to mind. Boney M. was one of her favourites. Mom, I'm thinking of you, now and always.

This one is simply stunning:

Pentatonix amazes me. The accelerando towards the end of this is so masterfully done.

Skipping back in time to high school. It may sound silly, but playing this was one of the highlights of my modest and sadly truncated career in band:

Highlights of this are numerous. There's a lovely brass chorale on "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"; another on "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing";  a sublime and subdued Silent Night; offbeat rhythms that bedevilled our band on Jingle Bells; O Come All Ye Faithful as written by Tchaikovsky, and a killer finale.

Here's a (proto-) Canadian classic from 1643.

Let these harmonies wash over you...

And here's a Canadian classic of more recent vintage:

I'm not the only one who is just the slightest...bit...ambivalent about the season. Kathy, hon, you will enjoy this. I hope you don't relate to it TOO much. (smile)

Here's a version of the Twelve Days of Christmas you'll actually WANT to hear. My Facebook friends see this one every year--it's too good not to reshare...and reshare...and reshare...

If you're not "Twelve Dazed" out...yes, there actually is a polyamorous rendition.

In honour of my friend Craig--I want to hear you perform this someday, man...

People who are not Craig may not recognize this. This is Wayne Bergeron, one of the most talented trumpeters I've heard. You'll get it if you listen to the end. I won't spoil it. If you've ever played or listened to brass, what he does to finish this off will cause your jaw to dislocate. Somebody's actually posted the sheet. It's that insane.

Last, but far from least, Stuart McLean.

He died in February of this year. He may not have been the Canadian icon that Gord Downie was, but he was an icon nonetheless. Think Garrison Keillor, without the sexual harassment and religion. Simple, folksy, downhome stories, full of warmth and humour. His Christmas tales are exemplary.  Most of them aren't on YouTube -- the one I really wanted to link, "Dave Cooks The Turkey", doesn't exist...but here's one Eva and I have listened to many a time on the road. Stuart, you are missed.

I want to wish each and every one of you reading this a Merry Christmas. And a Happy Boxing Day, because everyone always seems to forget that day. Love to all, and to all a good night.


karen said...

Hey! I hope you had a merry christmas!

I like all your musical selections. Boney M was a favourite of my dad's. I also enjoyed the Pentatonic selection and the the trumpet video really a lot. I feel the same about Stuart as you do; it was really bittersweet to hear the last recorded Christmas story this year.

Another thing I look forward to at Christmas time is the CBC broadcast of the reading of The Shepherd by Alan Maitland.

I wish you health and happiness and maybe some real ease in the year to come.

Ken Breadner said...

Thank you, karen. I missed this comment somehow and I apologize for that. I hope you and your loved ones had a merry Christmas, and I further hope your 2018 is something special