As a child I was always torn between the conflicting messages; and conflicting cultural directions. Life was pretty simple back then. Our parents kept it that way for as long as they could. That meant we thought we were pretty evenly split between the Welsh on dad’s side and German on mom’s. Split heritage. Split traditions. And for myself, that meant a decided split in musical preference: somber English traditional carols of introspection and the cacophonous clamoring of German bells in a full out riot of notes to go with the flurry of activity and high energy of celebratory joy.
My favorites were the songs that told another part of the story than the one we heard in church: I Saw 3 Ships, The Holly & the Ivy, Good King Wenceslas, We 3 Kings, God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman & In the Bleak Midwinter. I suspect that this love for these tunes is what inevitably lead me to love Sting when he sang his way into my heart; a truth bore out by the release of his album If on A Winter’s Night. Our Catholic church, replete with sobriety in music, rather made one crave something joyfully frivolous. And while my ultimate favorite carol is the German Stille Nacht, too much introspection callouses the soul. The giddy glöckschen are a perfect foil to English sobriety.
And maybe a little dance music.
I have a huge collection of Christmas music, almost 30 CDs (huge for me). My Spotify list is quite extensive. But these are the top 3 CDs that I prefer to listen to. And you can see that the selection is mostly German. So many of our traditions come from the German culture and we do not even realize it. Christmas is the perfect time, in my mind, to embrace and extoll this place which holds such a fascination for me.
You can see that of my three favorites, the German music is in the lead. There have been far too many years of bleak winters and solitary holidays observed since my father’s passing. Last year when Matthias Reim’s Die Große Weihnachts Party came out with its upbeat rhythms and clearly tinkling bells all of me got really happy, really quickly. Lasst uns froh und munter sein, oh du fröliche, Kling, glöckschen, klingelingeling and the original Wo bleibt der Schnee?
Bare Naked for Christmas is a comfortable mix of tradition and current favorites. Most all of it is stripped down of the pomp, highlighting the songs themselves and the boys’ voices. The Hanukkah song and God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen being my faves.
And then there is the non descript, plain looking little CD. 25 of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard song by a children’s choir will rip the Scrooge right out of you if he’s still lurking in faint shadows. The CD is from a vinyl record called Musik für Weihnachten, produced by the Bielfelder Kinderchor. About 13 years ago I met someone who shared my love of the German heritage, his Grandmother spoke only German in the house. He made this Cd for me, the best gift I’d gotten in a long time. Finally, feeling like I wasn’t a weirdo for caring about these things and missing the traditions that we were only just starting to understand when my grandfather passed, the fires for learning and exploring were rekindled.
This is the first year that I have been able to hear the CD since dad passed. And it is quickly becoming the soundtrack for the 2013 season with In dulci jubilo, Josef Lieber, Josef Mein, Süßer die Glocken nie klingen, and the theme for this year: Vom Himmel hoch, ihr Englein kommt…. in other words
Suzani Suzani Suzani.