It’s December! This of course means Christmas songs are in season and thus fair game. But, it is also December 7th, which is Pearl Harbor Day, and while it certainly was not the deadliest, nastiest, bloodiest or most memorable point in human martial history, today is still one of those days many people set aside to think about serious, sobering issues of life, death, and how seemingly happy we are as a species whenever we are lobbing missiles and armed but relatively innocent young soldiers at each other. So, while I love the song “Christmas in Killarney”, it will have to wait till a cheerier day. This whole list is a bit subdued, compared to some weeks, actually. But, in this mix are several very beautiful Christmas songs, and a few great tracks from artists who are well outside the mainstream.
1. “Ag Criost An Tsiol”- The Columbia Minstrels (Celtic Chillout Vol. 3): An older traditional tune from the Irish tradition. ‘Criost’ is the Irish word for ‘Christ’, by the way.
2. “Point of View”- Elephant Revival (Break in the Clouds): Another tune from the fantastic local band Elephant Revival. These guys will be playing a show on New Years Eve at the Aggie, here in Fort Collins, which I am looking forward to seeing, pink camera in hand.
3. “Mercy”- Sarah McLachlan (Solace): A creepily haunting song from Sarah McLachlan, perfect for contemplating WWII.
4. “Carol Nadolig”- Stuart A Mark Burrows (101 o Garolau): A gorgeous carol from a Welsh collection, in Welsh, of course.
5. “Clancy’s Jig/ Abbey Reel”- Barry Kerr (The Three Sisters ): Barry Kerr is nominated for Top Uillean Piper this year, for the Irish Music Awards, so here’s another of the great songs off his recent album.
6. “Way Down Here”- Kenny Chesney (Lucky Old Sun): A slow, somewhat gloomy tune from Kenny Chesney, that shows off his nice voice.
7. “The Wexford Carol”- Natalie MacMaster, Yo-Yo Ma, Alison Krauss (Songs of Joy & Peace ): One of the best recordings of this classic English carol.
8. “Sway”- Celtic Thunder, Paul Byrom (It’s Entertainment): Paul Byrom was shortlisted for a Grammy nomination, though he didn’t make the cut this year. This is particularly hopeful because by next year Paul will have recorded and promoted his PBS special for months, and he’ll no longer be working just off of old material. I’m optimistic, anyway. In the meantime, this is one of his particularly nice covers from his days with Celtic Thunder.
9. “Carolan’s Concerto”- Seana ( Traditional Irish Harp): Seana Davey is also one of the nominees in the Irish Music Awards category, for Traditional Irish Harpist. She is one of the lovely sirens who sways in the background while the Celtic Thunder lads perform, but as anyone who has seen this ensemble perform knows, she has many talents, including some very pretty dance moves. I’d imagine there are little girls scattered throughout every audience Celtic Thunder has performed for this year who dream of becoming just like Seana, the ultimate in fairy princesses complete with flowy purplish gown.
10. “Bring Me L’il Water Silvy”- The Wailin’ Jennys (Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House) : I love singing along to this folk tune, especially when it is recorded with such lush harmonies.
11. “Kothbiro”- Ayud Ogada (The Constant Gardener): The movie The Constant Gardener is set partly in Africa, and thus the soundtrack has this lovely track from an artist whose own album is also very good. I’ll probably include some of his other work on later lists, but I really love this song, soundtrack or not.
12. “By the Skin of His Teeth”- Duke Special (I Never Thought This Day Would Come): A bit more upbeat, this song references a play I really dislike, but it’s still a fun track.
13. “Mitt Hjerte Alltid Vanker”- Sissel, The Chieftans (Silent Night: Christmas in Rome): A rather well-known Norwegian singer (Sissel has 22 albums listed on amazon, and sings a lot in English), plus the Chieftans.
14. “A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: No 6. This little babe”- Etherea Vocal Ensemble, Grace Cloutier (Ceremony of Carols) : This song is at the top of my choir wish-list (songs for which I would join a choir in order to get to sing them in an ensemble). The entirety of Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols is amazing, but I am in awe of this carol in particular. I listened through 7-8 different recordings of this set of songs, and for just about every carol in this collection, Etherea was by far my favorite. There are a lot of other choirs and ensembles that have also recorded this song, though, and while not all of them sound as great in their recordings, I’m sure they all sound fantastic live.
15. “You Are Not Alone- Single version”- Michael Jackson (The Essential Michael Jackson) : Another slow song by a great mainstream artist, this was one I liked singing along to as a kid. I thought I sounded amazing.
16. “Lullaby for an Anxious Child”- Sting (If On a Winter’s Night ):
17. “Mister Winter”- Fox and the Bird (Floating Feather ) :
18. “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”- Graznya Auguscik (Personal Selection) : Josh Groban released the tracklist for his new album in a vlog within the past day, and one of his covers is of this song. Actually this is also a cover, by a Polish woman with a great smooth jazzy voice. I almost included the original songwriter’s version instead, but this lady’s voice seduced me away from the original version.
19. “Bolingo- Nigerian”- The African Children’s Choir (Christmas Around the World) : We sang a lot of African Christmas music when I was in choirs in undergrad, but I can’t recall their names any more, even though I can still hum their tunes and even manage the choreography we used, still. We never sang this one, but it would be fun.
20. “Lully Lullia”- The Burgundian Cadence (Christmas Music From Medieval England) : This song was our processional carol for last year’s Christmas concerts, and I really like this version of what many people know with some variations in lyrics as the Coventry Carol.