It’s that time of year again. The temperature has dropped and the snow has begun to fall.
It’s time to bundle up tight before you leave the house and prepare to freeze at the corner of James and Jackson as you wait for your bus. The crowd at Jackson Square has grown both in size and ambition over the mall lunch rush. You can see your breath as you hustle past the lights and Christmas village in Gage Park on your way home from the office. The holidays begin to creep up on us, bringing the winter “blahs” with them. Hamilton in the winter is either blanketed in snow and slush or shrouded in grey. Yes, it certainly is that time of year when the only thing capable of snapping you out of that winter funk, besides all of the shortbread you can eat, is music.
If you don’t want a Christina Aguilera Christmas, wish “Santa Baby” would stay as far away from your chimney and had all you can stand of that Christmas Shoes song, you are not alone. It’s been a busy year for Hamilton, and returning to our roots gives us time to reflect on 2014.
That’s why this year we’re going back to the basics. Many traditional Christmas songs that we know and love are actually rooted in classical music. So, why not turn them up this holiday season and inspire some nostalgic feelings of Christmases past?
1) Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24
While the Trans-Siberian Orchestra mixes symphonic sounds with a bit of rock and roll, their Christmas repertoire remains grounded in the realm of traditional classical works – and we love it.
Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24, a mash up of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Carol of the Bells, describes a lone cello player performing a forgotten Christmas carol in war-torn Sarajevo. Paul O’Neil of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra explains that:
“It was just such a powerful image—a white-haired man silhouetted against the cannon fire, playing timeless melodies to both sides of the conflict amid the rubble and devastation of the city he loves…The song wraps around this man as the orchestra represents one side, the rock band the other, and single cello represents that single individual, that spark of hope.”
When the Trans-Siberian Orchestra came through Hamilton on their Christmas Tour two years ago, they definitely delivered. Their high energy performance mixed with familiar classical melodies creates the perfect soundtrack for trimming the tree.
2) Felix Mendelssohn: Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Don’t be surprised if you hear this one on your way past St. Patrick’s Church this holiday season as it’s a favourite amongst musicians and singers alike. This song was originally adapted from Mendelssohn’s Festgesang to compliment the words written by Charles Wesley. Wesley wanted his lyrics to be sung to the tune of the church hymn Christ, the Lord is Risen Today, which is still listed as the second verse in most hymnals.
3) Mykola Leontovych: Carol of the Bells
Carol of the Bells or Shchedryk is based on a traditional Ukrainian folk chant. It was later adapted as an English Christmas carol following a performance of the original song at Carnegie Hall in 1921. NBC Radio’s Peter Wilhousky wrote the first English version of Carol of the Bells. The song reminded him of the beautiful ringing of the bells which you can hear throughout the piece.
Think of the intensity of Carol of the Bells and channel your inner Kevin McCalister from Home Alone as you brave the crowds at Limeridge Mall this holiday season.
4) Vince Guaraldi: Charlie Brown Christmas
The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without the music from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Vince Guaraldi was a brilliant American pianist celebrated for his innovative compositions and arrangements for the animated adaptation of the Peanuts comic strip.
The soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas would have been the perfect background music at the annual tree-lighting ceremony in Dundas this year. After plugging in the tree, a power surge left half the town without hydro. If only they had a sapling wrapped in a little, blue blanket. The soundtrack to this Christmas classic is perfect for all your hot chocolate and eggnog drinking needs.
5) Leroy Anderson: Sleigh Ride
The ultimate tune in classic holiday music repertoire. Many years ago, sleigh rides were a fun way to meet new people while enjoying the beauty and wonder of the holiday season. This song is so great because it reminds us of a simpler time – when creating memories through these holiday traditions were more valuable than any present under the tree.
Sleigh Ride is so rich in orchestration and actually uses all the instruments in the orchestra. Listen for percussion parts where you can hear horses hooves gallop and even the crack of a whip. See your own HPO perform this piece and other festive favourites on Saturday, December 20 at Home for the Holidays.