Saturday, December 23, 2023

Christmas traditions: 12 Days, Festivus, Messiah, and the oddest Christmas Special ever!

Time for an annual "traditions" post -- 

Twelve Days of Christmas:  


The Messiah:
 The New York Times writes Handel’s ‘Messiah’ Teaches Us a Surprising Lesson About Tradition:
...Fortunately, Handel’s “Messiah” is so popular that the ideological fashions of critics and performers cannot contain it. The work continues to be gleefully performed very much as it was in the days of Stokowski, even as the Handel and Haydn Society solemnly persists in its commitment to small ensembles, period instruments and other trappings of historical accuracy....
This seemingly inexhaustible variety of interpretations is possible because “Messiah” is sui generis: an unclassifiable hybrid of sacred art and theatrical revelry that cannot be subsumed neatly into any given school of performance, idiom or national tradition. This is why “Messiah” has succeeded in such a wide array of cultural contexts, including the TV special “It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown” (1992), in which Marcie and Peppermint Patty attend a performance that sounds remarkably similar to the Stokowski version, as well as the Japanese animated TV series “Neon Genesis Evangelion” (from 1995 to 1996), in which the Somary recording plays over images of a teenage girl thrusting the spear of Longinus into a monstrous alien being.
“Messiah” is now the common property of the entire human race: a jewel in the crown of the Anglican cultural tradition that has become not only the source of recessional hymns for Catholics but also an indelible symbol of Christmas for millions of non-Christians. In the words of the oratorio’s first chorus, taken from the Book of Isaiah: “All flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
Years ago, I participated in a "sing-along Messiah" that was such great fun. This Opinion piece is right - the Messiah belongs to us all, even the Silent Monks.

Finally, this - 
The Oddest Christmas Special Ever - Bing Crosby and David Bowie:  
The story behind this Christmas Moment is stranger still -- Wipedia reports;
...The special's musical supervisors, Ian Fraser and Larry Grossman, originally intended the duo to record a straightforward rendition of "The Little Drummer Boy". However, Bowie balked at singing "Little Drummer Boy": "I hate this song. Is there something else I could sing?", Fraser recalled Bowie telling him. Scriptwriter Buz Kohan further stated that Bowie felt "Little Drummer Boy" "wasn't a good showcase for his voice". Startled, Fraser, Grossman, and Kohan found a piano in the studio's basement and wrote "Peace on Earth" as a counterpoint to "Little Drummer Boy" in just over an hour. Regarding the experience, Kohan said, "It all happened rather rapidly. I would say within an hour, we had it written and were able to present it to [Bowie] again." Crosby performed "Little Drummer Boy", while Bowie sang "Peace on Earth", which they reportedly performed after less than an hour of rehearsal. Kohan added that "Bing loved the challenge" of the arrangement, stating he "was able to transform himself without losing any of the Crosby-isms."...
Happy Festivus, everyone!

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