Trail Mix: Holiday Tunage Traditions

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Perhaps more than any season, the Christmas season is marked by music.

Nobody sings Easter carols or Halloween carols or Fourth of July carols. Love ‘em or hate ‘em – and I tend to love ‘em – Christmas carols are everywhere, from the radio to the elevator to the shopping mall, once the Christmas displays hit the local stores. From the classic (thanks, Bing!) to the horrid (has Jason Aldean cut a Christmas record?), Christmas music is a hallmark of the season, and everyone out there tends to have a favorite tune.

This week, I reached out to music minded friends to find out what their favorite Christmas tunes were. You’ve probably heard some of them. If not, find them. They are all great!

One of my favorite Christmas songs of all time has to be “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid, which was written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure and recorded in November of 1984. I was fourteen and it was exciting for me to see so many of my favorite European and Irish artists working together to end poverty in Ethiopia. This song went on to be rerecorded recently and the lyric was changed to “heal the world” instead of “feed the world” in response to the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa. With so many Christmas songs being about picture postcard perfect things, to me this song really reminds that, while we have, there are those who have not and those people need our attention and our help. We should not forget them during our celebration of the season.  —Gill Braswell, owner of Capo’s Music Store, Abingdon, VA

I have always loved “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” by David Bowie and Bing Crosby. It intrigued me to see these two – the rocker and the crooner – in a duet. The counterpoint that runs throughout the song just works and results in a beautiful rendition. It is one of those songs that reminds me of childhood Christmases, and since it is a classic, I can look forward to hearing it every year. —Daniel Dotten, Music Fan, Wise, VA

I think “Blue Christmas” is my favorite Christmas tune. I don’t listen to much Christmas music, but this one hits home. I usually feel a little down during the holidays. I’ve never had a really lovey-dovey Christmas card family, so our Christmas usually consists of everyone just getting drunk and annoyed with each other (someone usually cries, too). More than lonely for romance, I feel lonely for that cliché loving family connection around Christmas. I love my family, but sometimes I envy people who have those types of families portrayed on TV. They do exist, right? —Cale Tyson, singer/songwriter, Nashville, TN

I have always liked “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” love jazz in the wintertime, and I have always found this number to be both jazzy and sentimental. It’s a long time favorite. —Josh Daniel, singer/songwriter, Charlotte, NC

One of the many reasons I enjoy the Christmas music is because of the standard repertoire of songs that are orchestrated, arranged, or adapted by each artist. Based on this foundation, I would suggest that my favorite Christmas song is “O, Holy Night” from Harry Connick, Jr.’s 1993 album When My Heart Finds Christmas. From the mysterious opening unison in the upper strings to the awkward discordant commentary shared from the woodwind section, the first thirty seconds are captivating and pull me into the craftiness of the orchestration on every listen. Frequent interjections of dissonance and creative reharmonizations bring a freshness to the arrangement. Because of the contemporary treatment of such a classic and well-loved song, not all listeners agree with me. However, the complexity and fresh treatment lend this arrangement to being a perennial favorite of mine.  —Dr. Donald Sorah, Professor of Music, Wise, VA

Growing up, A Christmas Together, by John Denver & The Muppers, was my favorite Christmas record. My parents had just dug out my beat up vinyl copy when I played a show for the John Denver museum. The museum also had a copy and the curator overheard me expounding on how much the record meant to me as a kid. Next thing I knew, he was pressing a brand new copy, in plastic, into my hands. It still sounds just as good to me as it did when I was a kid. —Travis Book, of The Infamous Stringdusters, Roseland, VA

I feel obliged to double dip here. Without a doubt, my favorite Christmas carol is “Carol of the Bells.” This dates back to my junior year in high school, when our choir performed the song during our Christmas arrangement. The arrangement was incredibly difficult and, when performed, wonderfully beautiful. And, regarding Christmas albums, I cannot overlook David Grisman’s Acoustic Christmas. I am particularly fond of instrumental Christmas music, and this record epitomizes the perfection of acoustic carols.

It’s my hope that any and all of the songs listened here make it on to your holiday soundtrack. May all of you enjoy the merriest Christmas. —Dave, Blue Ridge Outdoors, Wise, VA

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