The horrors and joys of Christmas music

Hooray! It’s time for my annual Christmas rant. This year it’s Christmas music in the firing line.

I love and I hate Christmas music. I love carols (well, most of them), and a small selection of other seasonal pieces (mainly classical). And I hate the rest. It’s syrupy and schmaltzy and trite and consumer-y or else just crass; an auditory embodiment of everything else that hacks me off about the festive season.

I hate being bombarded with ‘So here it is, Merry Christmas’ and ‘Last Christmas I gave you my heart’ whenever I’m anywhere near shops. ‘Have yourselves a Merry Little Christmas’ brings me out in a rash, and ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’ has me reaching for an axe. If he comes to my town and sings that song, he may not be delivering presents anywhere else for a while.

I fervently wish that Santa Claus would get stuck up a damn chimney, and take Wham!, Chris de Burgh, Slade and all the others with him. If George Michael did by any chance give me his heart, I’d be inclined to jump up and down on it quite vigorously. My personal hell would be to be stuck eternally in a Christmas shopping mall with festive hits on loop.

I particularly detest the concept of the Christmas Album, a lame excuse for former pop stars to attempt to resuscitate their flagging careers by jumping on the bandwagon of festive re-hashing (or regurgitation). Urgh and shudder.

Lighting a candle

But apparently it’s better to light a candle than fall over on your backside in the darkness, or something. Or maybe just if you can’t beat ’em join ’em. Either way I’ve recorded a couple of carols of my own to throw into the noisome mix of Christmas tunes, and here, for your great delight, they are:

Into the Dark of Earth’s Long Night

A carol that deliberately doesn’t directly mention Jesus or God at all. It’s kind of in medieval plainsong style with a time signature that goes all over the place.

Into the dark of earth’s long night 
Shines the star of heaven’s light 
Into the heart of winter sky 
Rises this star so bright, so high 
Guiding us with its quickening ray
Heralding long-awaited day 
Into the dark of earth’s long night 
Shines the star of heaven’s light

Into the dark of sin and shame
Blazes the light of heaven’s flame
This flame which burns so pure and strong
Promising end to harm and wrong
Bringing to us love’s holy light 
Come to restore our broken sight
Into the dark of sin and shame
Blazes the light of heaven’s flame

Into our winter deep and long,
Sound the notes of heaven’s song
This song which melts the frozen heart
Breaking its ice-bound chains apart
Making our souls and spirits sing
With the joy of coming spring
Into our winter deep and long
Sound the notes of heaven’s song.

The Light Shines in the Darkness

Again, no direct mention of Jesus, but a bunch of well-known seasonal biblical texts set to an absurdly simple tune. Be warned though – first independent review I’ve had of this was “truly awful – I’d rather be stuck in a shopping mall with Christmas hits on loop than listen to that again!” It’s certainly not the best recording, but best I could manage on my cardboard-and-string home rig. I think it gets better after the first verse, which was aiming for a Hobbit Dwarves’ song feel but didn’t quite make it…

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (x2)
The true light that gives life to all was come into the world
And the world did not recognise it

The people who walk in darkness, they have seen a great light (x2)
On all who live in fear of death in the shadow of the night
On them will the light now shine

Unto us is born a son now, and the government is on his shoulders (x2)
And he shall be called wonderful, our counsellor, Prince of Peace
Everlasting Father

Avoiding the banal

And whatever you think of my offerings (or my singing), of course there’s a whole sled-load of genuinely good and soul-restoring Christmas music out there if you know where to look. Next time, my tips for a non-banal (and yes, almost entirely classical) playlist over the coming season of obesity and enforced sociableness…

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About TheEvangelicalLiberal

Aka Harvey Edser. I'm a web editor, worship leader, wannabe writer, very amateur composer and highly unqualified armchair theologian. My heroes include C.S. Lewis and Homer Simpson.
This entry was posted in Arts, Christmas, Music and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The horrors and joys of Christmas music

  1. Jenny Rayner says:

    Hilariously, and ironically, I had just popped “CHRISTMAS HITS featuring Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and Many More” into my laptop, to get me in the mood, when I opened my emails to be confronted immediately with your annual Christmas rant!
    I must say, I completely agree with you over “Last Christmas I gave you my heart” – it doesn’t rhyme, and it doesn’t make sense, so I always turn to another station when it comes on the radio. But the rest – well I suppose it’s all about nostalgia, and nothing to do with the real meaning of Christmas at all.
    However, I still get my collection of Christmas CDs out every year, and play them while I’m putting up decorations!
    It is quite an eclectic mix though – “Christmas with the Choir”, “It’s Christmas time again (including the Calypso carol), “Celtic Christmas”, and “Carols from Canterbury Cathedral”.(I’m listening to Rudolph at the moment!
    And now I have your songs to add to the list!
    I love the words of the first one – do you mind if I use them in my Christmas cards? – I will credit you!
    Oh – and by the way – Have yourself a merry little Christmas! Love Jenny xx

    Like

    • Well, à chacun son goût Jenny! Nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia. And some Christmas songs are definitely worse offenders than others. I just like to have a rant occasionally!

      And yes, please feel free to use the words of my song in your cards – I’m very gratified that you’d want to 🙂

      And may all your Christmases be white… 😉

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  2. Noel says:

    I hear you…. i get frustrated with Christmas songs as well….

    Like

  3. Sarah Marten says:

    Just think of the poor shop assistants at this time of year: I was talking to the woman in Tesco yesterday and she said six hours of the canned Christmas music every day is driving her insane

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    • Maybe we could start a campaign – ‘the canned should be banned’ 😉

      I can’t even begin to imagine how awful it must be to work in a shop at this time of year…

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      • I worked in a clothing store for a Christmas job one year and we were just overlooking Santa’s Grotto. We got our management to put in a complaint about the music from the grotto. Which had lyrics which we could only hear some of which actually made it more annoying. The particularly nauseous lyrics were (each set of hashes represent syllables of lyrics we never heard. (the bedums are to represent a downwards scale pattern played on some simulated plucked string instrument)

        It’s Christmas! In Teddy bear land, some of the bears are ## ## ###
        Some of the bears are ## ## ##
        to ##-## ## ## ## ## ##
        Bedumdumdumdumdumdumdumdum
        Bedumdumdumdumdumdumdumdum

        (Literally a three second pause here)
        [Repeat]

        They were lucky that some of the bears weren’t beheaded and had their blood and entrails splattered in Santas face. If you’d handed any one of our staff a chainsaw after even an hour of this trite babble I wouldn’t like to see the consequences.

        Before you judge me for that last paragraph I’ve just worked out that that marvellous little ditty happened over 150 times an hour. I defy anyone to retain their sanity over an entire month of 8 hour days listening to that. That’s 1200 teddybear ditties in the first day of work alone and that’s not taking into account late opening so it’s more like 1800!!!

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  4. The thing I find most annoying is when people feel the need to add a “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” feel to a Carol that has “God is awesome and I love him” type lyrics.

    A classic example of this is when on my Newday album (Newday is a youth event ran by New Frontiers that we take our youth along to) there is an amazing rendition of part of “Night Divine” but with some of the lyrics changed to “Christ Divine” because it wasn’t being sung at Christmas. Hearing an amazing powerful male voice belting out “Fall on your knees and hear the angels singing, Oh Christ Divine, Oh Christ, Oh Christ Divine” was touching and I thought that, as I share with you a hatred of Chintzmas, I must find a Christmas version sung in that same powerful way. A short YouTube search left me depressed, rendering only solo versions that sound like they’re being sung with a plum in their mouth and are waiting for the Bontempi organ accompaniment to start and Choral versions which didn’t catch the power of the version I’d heard. Worse still, although I think I can get the power behind most of the tune if I sang it myself the highest note is about a note or two outside my falsetto range so I couldn’t even make a recording of my own.

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