FYI: In case you didn’t see the Facebook post yesterday, here’s something else to listen to on your daily commute — I’m on the “Letters to Women” podcast this week! You can listen at the link, or find it on your favorite podcast player.
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This is by no means a comprehensive list of my favorite Christmas music; there are more Christmas songs that I love than I dislike, but these ten versions are among my absolute favorites. I’ve linked to the album itself where applicable.
1. Cantique de Noel, A Fresh Aire Christmas, Mannheim Steamroller. This version of “O Holy Night” is absolutely breathtaking. I first heard it in 1999 while walking across Prexy’s Pasture at the University of Wyoming campus on my way to class while listening to the FM radio on my CD player (that’s how we used to have to listen to music back in my day). I stopped dead in my tracks in the middle of the sidewalk and just listened until the song was over. As soon as I could, I found the CD for this song and bought it. Mannheim Steamroller is a favorite group of mine, and this rendition is the best instrumental version of “O Holy Night” out there, in my opinion. (Honorable mention from the same CD: Veni Veni, a Latin rendering of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” that will send chills up and down your spine. It’s gorgeous.)
2. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, Carol, Tonic Sol-Fa. This CD’s hard to find (it came out in 1997 and now retails for about $40 – I was lucky enough to buy it when TSF came to the UW campus to perform in 1999) but this song is absolutely worth it. Don’t get me wrong, the original by Boris Karloff is great, but Tonic Sol-Fa adds some fun acappela zaniness. (Honorable mention from the same CD: Mary’s Boy Child. It’s upbeat and animated and doesn’t sound like a funeral dirge, unlike most other versions.)
3. Auld Lang Syne, Barenaked for the Holidays, Barenaked Ladies. Hands down, best version of this song out there. Heartfelt and gorgeous. (Honorable mention from the same CD: I Have a Little Dreidel. Crazy happy song. Actually, this entire album is one of my absolute favorites; there are a lot of fun songs, including their duet with Sarah MacLachlan on We Three Kings.)
4. I Need a Silent Night, The Christmas Collection, Amy Grant.
I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night
For me, this song encapsulates how I feel every Advent — that it is so important, amid the rush and bustle, to stop and take time to meditate on the coming of our Lord. With six kids and an Advent that is jam-packed full of activities, that’s often a challenge!
(Honorable mentions from this album – “Mister Santa” is a fun parody of “Mr. Sandman,” and “Gabriel’s Oboe” is a gorgeous instrumental song.)
5. The Hallelujah Chorus – An Inconvenient Christmas – The Oak Ridge Boys. Collin and I bought this CD off a Food for the Poor TV special that we watched on Christmas Day 2008, in which the Oak Ridge Boys and Mannheim Steamroller were jointly performing. The Oak Ridge Boys did this song and I was blown away. The harmonies are incredible; it’s a difficult song to sing and they nailed it. (Honorable mention: the entire CD is wonderful. “Beautiful Star,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and “An Inconvenient Christmas” are my other favorites, but I love the whole album.
6. Toy Packaging – O Holy Night – Sara Groves.
Nothing makes me lose my cool like
Ask the kids to leave the room for
I have no choice the money’s spent
I’ve worked for hours to make a dent
I guess it’s anger management
It’s funny because it’s true. Back in my day, toys weren’t nearly so difficult to get out of their boxes (and I also walked to school in a blinding snowstorm, uphill both ways, with newspaper wrapped around my feet instead of shoes…). I do like this new trend of “frustration-free” packaging, though. More of that, please!
7. Frosty the Snowman, Sharing the Season Volume III, Lorie Line. I adore Lorie Line. I’ve seen her live in concert and it was a marvelous show. All of her music is terrific – I highly recommend all volumes of Sharing the Season, as well as The Silver Album (which is essentially an unplugged album of solo piano songs). This version of Frosty the Snowman quite simply ROCKS. I mean that literally. (Honorable mention from the same album: As With Gladness. Simple, classic, beautiful.)
Incidentally, Lorie Line got her start at the same place where Collin and I became engaged 18 years ago as on December 17 — the downtown Minneapolis Dayton’s (that later turned into Marshall Fields, and now it’s something else, maybe a Macy’s?). She was hired as a temp holiday employee to serenade the customers with piano music, and she became so popular that she ended up recording an album, and eventually turned professional.
8. Feliz Navidad, A Very Veggie Christmas, Larry the Cucumber. Feliz Navidad, featuring a tuba solo and a spontaneous rendition of “The Chicken Dance” midway through. What’s not to like? (Honorable mention from the same album: O Santa! “I’m from the IRS, and I’ve come to tax your–” *slam*)
9. Silent Night, James Galway’s Christmas Carol, James Galway. Granted, I’m partial to the flute because I played it all through high school, but I have to say that this rendition of Silent Night is simple and marvelous.
10. Carol of the Bells, O Holy Night, The Hillsboro Singers. Wonderful acappela version of this song, complete with the deep bass “BUMMMMMMMMM” at the end. Love it. I originally bought this CD out of the clearance bin at Wal-Mart just because I liked the name of the group (Hillsboro is the name of my hometown). It was a good buy.
Feel free to leave comments with your own favorites — I’m always on the lookout for great Christmas music!