My boss has suddenly decided that I should pursue a career as a writer. This would be lovely to hear if I didn’t know that her opinion was based entirely on my extremely hurried editing of a radio commentary she wrote (I got it from 11 pages to 3), and one silly line I came up with to make the point about Coca-cola using Harry Potter to sell their product to kids. She’s really into it now, though. She sent me an e-mail after I left work today to thank me for the editing again and offering her assistance and encouragement. I’m doomed.
Appropriate to the season, and to my wistful angst, here are my five favorite Christmas carols.
1. Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming (“Es ist ein Ros entsprungen”) -Michael Praetorius, my preferred translation by Theodore Baker- This is definitely my favorite Christmas carol, and I’m not entirely sure why. There is something gloriously pure about it, and I think the poetry is beautiful, both in English and the original German. The four-part arrangement is especially warm and just heart-wrenching.
2. In the Bleak Midwinter -Harold Darke, Christina Rossetti- It is the Darke setting of this poem that I love best, though Gustav Holst also set it beautifully, and I love it nearly as much. Christina Rossetti is a favorite of mine, as some of you may know. In the bleak midwinter frosty wind made moan. Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone. The music is as delicate as the poem is gray, and then it warms up to melt me by the end. What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepard I would bring a lamb. If I were a wiseman I would do my part. What can I give him? Give my heart. I once tried to write a solo voice/guitar version of this for me to sing… it started off well, but it actually made me too emotional as I went on and I eventually abandoned the idea. That is how much this carol affects me.
3. Wexford Carol -Irish traditional- I think it was Nanci Griffith (singing with The Chieftans) who introduced me to this carol, and I’m amazed that I had missed it the years before. Sad, too, as I haven’t sung with a good quartet (or any quartet at all) since, and the somewhat difficult four-part arrangement has always been a train wreck at caroling parties where the foolish people who love me have agreed to attempt it. In any case, it is still lovely and I always have Nanci when things look bleak.
4. Christmas Hymn -traditional- I’m actually unsure of the arrangement, though I think it may have come from a Robert Shaw book. You may not recognize the title, but this is the song that begins “While by my sheep I watched at night” and has echoing choruses of “Joy joy joy”. It is a favorite of mine from my very young childhood, as it was always sung at my parents’ caroling parties. The copy I have of it has been xeroxed and mimeographed time upon time, and is barely readable. Fortunately I do not need to look at the words. I have heard a lot of arrangements of this song, many of them much fancier than the one my parents sang, but that will always be my favorite.
5. O come, O come, Emmanuel (“Veni, veni, Emanuel”) -13th century, translation by J.M. Neale- I am not sure how this became a favorite. It is a very old song, obviously, and I have enjoyed many arrangements of it, though the simple ones seem most appropriate. I suppose I like it for its dark, aching tone. I think I may recall my mother not liking this song a lot, though I could be wrong about that.
Wow, it was difficult to choose only five. I love so many… The Holly and the Ivy, My Dancing Day, Good King Wenceslas, I saw a Maiden, Away in a Manger (all three tunes that I know for it), I Wonder as I Wander… oh the list goes on and on… Also I did not allow myself any larger works, only carols, because it didn’t seem fair. I left out Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols and Arthur Honneger’s Une Cantate de Noël, among others, though they are some of my favorite pieces of all time.
The only thing I can really say about this morning, is that it was too dark to get out of bed, and still is. So. *cries*
This morning I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to the things that I alone list as interests. Oh the tragedy of those lonely little unlinked words. Anyway, the following are things that nobody is interested in but me:
Greenwillow – This is one of my very favorite books on the earth, introduced to me by my mother, who also introduced me to the semi-obscure Frank Loesser musical that was based on it. It is perhaps the most delightful thing I have ever read. Out of print, last I knew, my original copy was one that was walked out the back door of the Saginaw Library for me (when I was in high school) by a close friend’s librarian mom. I was the only person who had checked it out in years, so I guess she figured nobody would miss it. The copy I have now was found for me at a used book sale by my dear friend, Fiona Swift. She purchased it in order to save me from a life of crime. And hey! I just found out that this was reissued in paperback!!
B.J. Chute – Author of the aforementioned book.
Kenneth MacMillan – Sir Kenneth MacMillan to be precise, my favorite choreographer. I am one of those lame ballet geeks who was never a dancer (aside from what I needed to do as an actor/singer), and there is something about his choreography that captures me like nothing else. When I lived in NYC I used to spend way too much of my spare (ha ha) cash getting orchestra seats for ABT performances of Romeo and Juliet and Manon. My sister actually got to perform some of his choreography when she was touring with Nick Hytner’s revival of Carousel, something of which I will always be insanely jealous.
So… that’s it. I have nothing else to say.