A Special Christmas Music Gift
We all love to get into the Christmas season and set the right mood for love and merry making. This is also the right time to look for special gifts and send them to our loved ones just to let them know how much they mean to us. Just as we are reminded by the timeless hit of the Little Drummer Boy, no gift will ever be ideal for Christmas than the gift of a real Christmas classic. But unfortunately, it is a little bit of a task to locate and find such gifts and send them out during Christmas.
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Despite the fact that it is not easy to find the perfect gift to send out during Christmas, there is not a total blockade to prevent you from thinking out of the box. It is still possible to come up with a nice sweet collection of American Christmas classics and wrap them into a gift box that will be much appreciated, especially by those folks from the Baby Boomer era. Fortunately, with a little searching, there are several places where you can find such gift collections. One such place is Christmas Classic Ltd. It produces exquisite Christmas music collections that will make perfect Christmas gifts at any time. To boot, American Christmas Classics is available at $29.95 . . . a 50% Discount from the original price of $59.95!
Included in the American Christmas Classics collection are 47 all-time favorite classic Christmas songs featuring music legends Bing Crosby, Kate Smith, Andy Williams, Gene Autry and other celebrated singers. But the collection is not only about music.
This cultural treasure includes a lavishly illustrated masterpiece book about the stories behind favorite American Christmas carols and songs featuring period fine art and illustrations from America’s great artists, such as Norman Rockwell, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and Grandma Moses, as well as images of nostalgic Victorian Christmas cards and notable magazines of yesteryear as The Saturday Evening Post, Scribner’s, and LIFE.
This Christmas collection has been described as a sumptuous and ideal gift package that will bring boundless joy this season. For customers nostalgic for their Christmas past, this is the perfect Christmas gift.
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Emile Waldteufel and The Skaters Waltz
Emile Waldentedufel, the noted Alsatian waltz composer, was born on this day in 1882. He composed the delightful Les Patineurs (The Skater’s Waltz), in addition to over 250 other waltzes, many of them while he was chamber musician to the Empress Eugenie (1826-1920) of France.
During the second half of the 19th century the waltz as a music form enjoyed immense popularity in many countries of Europe, including France. This new style, developed to high art by Viennese composers, especially Johann Strauss the Younger (1825-1899), achieved widespread recognition faster than any music form preceding it.
The patronage of Franz Joseph (1848-1916), the Austrian Emperor, certainly helped its rise, but the phenomenon of country folk song and dance being fused into urban artistic entertainment was more influential in making waltz music popular to a wider audience. Public open-air concerts became more common, providing an environment for military music (such as marches which were the rage in the first half of the 19th century), folk song and dance, and excerpts from operettas that formerly only entertained the royal court and high society.
Besides the waltz, ice-skating was a popular pursuit in France and other more northern European countries, as well as in the United States. Emile Waldteufel accommodated his fellow countrymen by fusing the two recreations in Les Patineurs (Op.183), and his musical canvas comes alive with the spirited sounds of skaters gracefully waltzing across the ice.
In The Bleak Mid-Winter
Published posthumously in 1904, ten years after the death of Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), the poem In the Bleak Mid-Winter would two years later become a plaintive and haunting Christmas carol. Written by Rossetti sometime before 1872, it was not intended as a carol or hymn, but as a Christmas poem at the behest of Scribner’s Monthly, an American literary magazine.
Rossetti was one of the few hymn writers of her day who garnered a reputation as a poet. She was highly supported by an educated and artistic family. Her father came to England as an Italian patriot and refugee who would become a professor at King’s College in London. Her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), was also a poet although he earned greater distinction as a Pre-Raphaelite artist. Possessed of exceptional beauty, Christina often posed as a model for her brother (and other contemporary artists), such as in his unique interpretation of the biblical Annunciation scene with Ecce Ancilla Domini. Sadly she was also known to have suffered her own pain and disappointment, some of which registered as somber verse in the manner of Emily Dickinson, the reclusive American poet.
Gustav Holst (1874-1934), a long-time friend of the celebrated Ralph Vaughan Williams, had a keen interest in Rossetti’s works. Best-known for his classical pieces, notably his orchestral masterpiece The Planets, Holst elevates In the Bleak Mid-Winter with a hymn-like musical setting that was published in the 1906 English Hymnal. Another popular setting for Rossetti’s contemplative poem was produced in 1909 by the English composer, Harold Edwin Darke (1888-1976), while he was a student at the Royal College of Music. His version has been favored by cathedral choirs over the years and it is often featured as part of the Nine Lessons and Carols, the annual Christmas radio broadcast by the King’s College Choir of Cambridge.
Despite England’s long tradition of producing and publishing exceptional carols, In the Bleak Midwinter was voted the greatest Christmas carol of all time in a 2008 poll of English choral experts and choirmasters. This is not at all surprising if your tastes prefer superb Christmas choral singing. Listen closely to the plaintive tune and imagine the gripping scene first depicted in Rossetti’s poem: snow falling on a bitterly cold night, the bleakness of winter, the meager environment attended by a loving and attentive mother in the presence of heavenly angels, stable animals, and lastly a lonely poet humbly offering her heart, her most precious of gifts, to the new-born child Jesus.
Dick Clark and AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CLASSICS
Dick Clark, the late popular radio and television personality, had high praise for AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CLASSICS. An iconic figure who helped to pioneer the rock ‘n roll era with his popular American Bandstand, Mr. Clark was a gentleman of the highest order. I came to appreciate this quality about him after I had approached him in 2002 about promoting my newest Christmas music boxed collection. Mr. Clark was so impressed by this unique collection of American Christmas songs, which he described as “most impressive,” that he considered buying my company, Christmas Classics Ltd. This was especially true after he had learned Christmas Classics Ltd. had gotten the necessary 172 copyright clearances to produce and published the richly illustrated collection. They included 47 Christmas songs and carols lyrics, three CDs, and 91 images including five Norman Rockwell color plates. Eventually Mr. Clark reluctantly decided not to purchase Christmas Classics Ltd. In an e-mail he wrote, “I always felt your material had great promise,” but because of a busy business schedule he would not have the time to devote to the enterprise. Regardless of the fact we could not work together to promote AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CLASSICS, I think of Dick Clark each Christmas season, ever thankful for his praise of my unique American Christmas songs and carols collection. But more importantly I remember him for being a gracious and kind person to me, a newcomer to the music and publishing trade. Over the years his positive assessment of AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CLASSICS has proven to be true, one that has been echoed by newspapers, media, and customers alike.
Christmas Songs and Carols to Brighten the Holidays
Let us make this “a season to be jolly!” Despite our troubles, let us rekindle the fond memories of Christmas past for our parents, grandparents, and children. Let us touch the sentimental strings of carefree and youthful days that once consumed Baby Boomers and our military veterans.
Let us start with the idea of organizing some of our holiday festivities around the theme of singing carols and holiday songs. It doesn’t get better than hearing joyous Christmas songs while hauling in and trimming the Christmas tree.
Some familiar old-timers reminisce about the joy of Christmas songs and carols.
The late Andy Williams, a popular singer of the 1960s and 1970s, described celebrating the Christmas season in an interview with me several years ago. “It was such a great time,” Andy said, as he and his three older brothers used to go house to house singing carols and drinking eggnog in Wall Lake, Iowa.
“Those were the days when you knocked on a neighbor’s door and opened unlocked doors.” The talented singer who in later years starred at his Moon River Theater in Branson, Missouri, suggested it would be a nice thing to renew the tradition of caroling around the neighborhood, or one’s home town, “because it is such a wonderful thing to do.”
Della Reese, familiar to television viewers for her earthly role in the popular 1994-2003 program “Touched by an Angel,” wrote to me at the same time “I just love the way Christmas carols change the spirit and attitudes of us all.” An accomplished singer and ordained minister, in addition to her acting skills, she described “Silent Night” as a magnificent thought, and her favorite holiday tune as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” sung by the mellifluous Nat “King” Cole. The irrepressible Della added, “In fact, I don’t really start my Christmas in earnest until I hear Nat sing “The Christmas Song.”
The late country and pop singer, Gene Pitney, enjoyed considerable success on both sides of the Atlantic through the mid-1960s with more than twenty Top 40 singles, including hits “Town Without Pity” and “Only Love Can Break a Heart.” In an e-mail Gene fondly recalled carving the turkey when his large family gathered for the holidays and the singing of Christmas carols. “I prefer religious carols,” he said, “that have not become jaded by commercial overuse. They represent the essential Christmas message.”
Take a cue from Andy, Della, and Gene. Start this holiday season with the idea of organizing your festivities around the theme of singing carols and holiday songs.
Celebrate with friends and family at home beside the fireplace or piano, or while trimming the Christmas tree, with traditional classics as “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” or “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” or singing such nostalgic holiday fare as “White Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
Encourage friends to join in the singing of “Silent Night” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” in front of your neighbors’ city stoop or country home. Better yet, why not sing for our senior citizens at nursing home or an assisted care facilities, or at a food kitchen for the poor and homeless, or a military hospital for our aged veterans or wounded warriors? Rest assured your caroling there will be met with open hearts and ready smiles.
Or you might volunteer to take part in the local performance of Handel’s “Messiah” for other worthy causes, or support a local church by attending its vesper service where awe-inspiring Christmas motets and concertos may reverberate, and where the reverential carol-hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” soars to celestial heights on the wings of angels. This is truly music for the soul.
Though the custom of singing Christmas songs and carols in front of neighborhood homes may seem quaint and outdated, let us redouble our efforts, especially this year, to engage young and old alike in reviving a wonderful Christmas tradition that is never out of fashion.
Ron Clancy is a Christmas songs and carols historian, and the author of illustrated Christmas music gift collections at www.christmasclassics.com.
Christmas Eve 2013: Gratitude and Fisher House
Today is Christmas Eve, a much anticipated day on the Christian calendar that serves as a prelude to the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. For many of us it a day of evening worship at our parish church and a time to reflect on the meaningful story of Christmas so richly illuminated by the Gospel of St. Luke.
For me personally Christmas Eve floods me with childhood memories about going to midnight Mass and hearing a choir of nuns sing carols so beautifully that their notes seemed to spiral heavenward as though on the wings of angels. That warm and intoxicating experience has often been rekindled each Christmas Eve, especially today when I took time from doing last minute Christmas shopping to re-read several e-mails I recently received from Fisher House managers from across the country regarding the donations of Best-Loved Christmas Carols and American Christmas Classics, my two best-selling, highly illustrated Christmas music collections
Two of those e-mails were particularly poignant. Heather Frantz from the Fisher House of Pittsburgh wrote: I just wanted to let you know that we handed out your boxed collections to our guests this past Wednesday at our Christmas Party and they absolutely LOVED them!!!!!! We had several wives who were so touched by the gift that they teared up and they all opened them and couldn’t believe how amazing the book was and all of the stories and history behind the songs that they all love so much. Thank you so very much for providing such a joyous gift for our guests!!! Merry Christmas to you!
The second response came from Kristin Palmer, Fisher House of San Diego. I just wanted to follow up with you and let you know we received and have been distributing your Christmas collections to our families. I can tell you personally each family I have talked to is touched and awed by your generosity. The holiday season on a good day can be stressful enough, but to have to also deal with a loved one in a medical crisis compounds that stress. I gave the CDs to a mother whose 18 year old Marine is receiving cancer treatments. She was very moved, and thankful. Fortunately in her case she will be able to bring her son home for the holidays, and she said they would be listening to them and letting everyone they know about the generosity of the Fisher House and those that support it. For the rest of the families that will have to remain here for the holidays, at least they will have a little Christmas spirit and know someone was thinking of them during the holidays. Again, thank you and God bless!
The sentiments conveyed by Fisher House military families are similar to the feelings I had when the Knights of Columbus, SKF Industries, Villanova University students, and others annually feted us at St. John’s Orphanage in Philadelphia during the Christmas holidays. I fondly remember, along with hundreds of other orphan boys, the warm afterglow of being a starry-eyed recipient of carefully wrapped Christmas presents that were more precious than gold.
To hear that the joy of my Christmas days of yore has been replicated and found expression in the hearts of Fisher House military families truly humbles me. As it should for one who has benefited much from the Christmas spirit.
Not too Late! Great Christmas Gifts for Military Families
It’s not too late! Please RT about Christmas Classics Ltd. support of the Fisher House Foundation this Christmas season. PRESS RELEASE
A great provider of free housing and comfort for military families in need of special medical care, the reputable foundation will benefit from the sale proceeds of Christmas Classics Ltd.’s two highly acclaimed Christmas music box collections, Best-Loved Christmas Carols and American Christmas Classics.
In addition, these premier collections are being donated to thirty-three Fisher Houses located across the country.
With the purchase today of Christmas Classics prized collections, described by customers and media alike as “great gifts,” you will make this Christmas season truly memorable, not only for your family and friends, but also for many of our military families who have suffered so much and yet have asked so little.
Ronald M. Clancy
Christmas Music Collections to Bring Cheer to Fisher Houses
Before the recent government shutdown occurred, author Ron Clancy of Christmas Classics Ltd. decided to support the Fisher House Foundation. A great provider of free housing and comfort for military families in need of medical care, the reputable foundation will benefit from the sale proceeds of Christmas Classics Ltd.’s two lavishly illustrated Christmas music collections (see FISHER HOUSE: How Others Are Giving).
To help bring special joy to Fisher House military families, Ron (@xmasmusicman) asks his Twitter followers to pass on the word about Christmas Classics Ltd. exceptional collections. The purchase of these ideal Christmas gifts for family and friends will help the Fisher House Foundation and its corollary Fisher Houses in the following ways:
1) 25% of sale proceeds will be donated to the Fisher House Foundation;
2) Christmas Classics Ltd. exquisite boxed collections will be donated to Fisher Houses across the country.
Please act today. Buy Christmas Classics Ltd. richly illustrated Best-Loved Christmas Carols and American Christmas Classics collections for your family and friends. Your purchase will go a long way to make this Christmas a truly memorable experience for those who have served our country so well and yet ask so little.
Today’s Video: The Story behind THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY
Christmas Classics PERSON OF THE DAY: James Kimball Gannon
On this day in 1900, James Kimball Gannon was born in Brooklyn, New York. Better known as Kim Gannon, he was an American songwriter and lyricist for the perennial Christmas favorite I’ll Be Home for Christmas.
Gannon attended St. Lawrence University and as a senior wrote the school’s alma mater song The Scarlet and the Brown. A proud graduate of St. Lawrence in 1924, he had every intention of becoming a lawyer. The Great Depression delayed that career pursuit and in 1930 he was working as a salesman for a utility company. By 1934 he passed the New York state bar examination, but five years later the songwriting bug struck and soon after he composed his first commercial song, For Tonight.
The year 1942 found Gannon writing songs during the “swing era” and for films including the lyrics of the film title song Always in My Heart that earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Song. He replicated that achievement twice more: 1) Too Much In Love for the film Song of the Open Road in 1944, and 2) Endlessly in 1945 for the film Earl Carroll Vanities. But in between he collaborated with Walter Kent in 1943 to produce I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Gannon also wrote songs for the films Powers Girl and If Winter Comes before Broadway beckoned in 1951 when he teamed up with Walter Kent again on the score for Seventeen.
Despite his success with film and Broadway, Gannon is best remembered for his popular and wistful Christmas lyric I’ll Be Home for Christmas. First recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943, it has since been recorded more than three hundred times and is an important part of American Christmas Classics.
The amiable Kim Gannon, who died in 1974, was always true to his alma mater. In his will he stipulated that after his wife Norma’s passing (she died in 2006), 30% of all royalty proceeds from his songs were to go to St. Lawrence University. The majority of those royalties, you can bet, come from his 39-word holiday classic I’ll Be Home for Christmas.
Christmas Classics PERSON OF THE DAY: John Troutback
On this day in 1832, John Troutback was born in Blencowe, Cumberland, England. He was a noted English translator of famous musical texts and an Anglican priest who served as chaplain to Queen Victoria during his tenure as Minor Canon at Westminster Abbey (1869-1899). The Rev. Troutback had previously held the position of Precentor at Manchester Cathedral from 1865-1869.
For purposes of distinction in the Anglican Church, a Minor Canon is usually a junior clergy staff member of a cathedral or collegiate church who participates in daily services. A Precentor, too, is a clergy member, generally part of a large church, whose charge is to prepare and organize liturgy and worship services.
The Rev. Troutback arranged many of the royal services at Westminster Abbey, most notably the 1887 Golden Jubilee service for Queen Victoria. In addition to devoting much of his life’s energy to church music, including editing Westminster Abbey Hymn Book (1883), several chant books, and The Manchester Psalter a few years prior to his assignment to Westminster Abbey. A possessor of a very fine voice, he was also the author of Church Choir Training.
Troutback’s greatest claim to fame, however, was his English translations of German, French, and Italian operas, songs, and oratorios for the British music publisher Novello. The Who’s Who List of his translations included Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion, Magnificat, and Christmas Oratorio.
The Christmas Oratorio (German Weihnachts-Oratorium) by Bach was one of three oratorios written near the end of his career and his last major contribution to the Lutheran Church. It was intended to conform to the church calendar for the 1734 Christmas season and to be performed on six successive Sundays during Advent and the Christmas season at two churches – St. Thomas and St. Nicholas in Leipzig. The oratorio incorporated six cantatas from earlier Bach compositions, some of them secular in tone, which caused some Lutheran Church elders to have problems with the great composer’s discarding of some hymn texts in favor of poetical passages and the interjection of a number of chorales, choruses, and arias of a non-Scriptural nature into the sacred work. The oratorio’s recitative and chorale settings, however, were original Bach compositions.
Bach received inspiration for his work from both the St. Luke and St. Matthew versions of the Nativity, especially since together they gave a more complete narrative of Christ’s birth. He believed the St. Luke 2:1-21 gospel had greater poetic qualities than the gospel of St. Matthew 2:1-12. However, St. Matthew’s story was particularly attractive to Bach since it recounted the tale of the Three Wise Men, leading Bach to attach greater significance to the Magi in the concluding passages of the oratorio.
The finished oratorio was broken into six parts, each to be performed on one of the major feast days of the Christmas period as follows:
Part I: The Birth of Jesus (Christmas Day)
Part II: The Annunciation to the Shepherds (December 26)
Part III: The Adoration of the Shepherd (December 27)
Part IV: The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus (New Year’s Day)
Part V: The Journey of the Magi (First Sunday after New Year)
Part V: The Adoration of the Magi (Epiphany – January 6).
Despite its original three hour length, the Rev. Troutback must have been elated to take on the task of translating Bach’s marvelous Christmas opus. In 1874 Novello published it along with Rev. Troutback’s English translation of Bach’s Magnificat.
For his distinguished service to his church, the Rev. Troutback in now buried with his wife in the East Cloister of the Westminster Abbey.