Christmas 1988 Starts Me on the Yellow Brick Road

February 12th, 2011

In 1988 I thought it would be a neat idea to share the riches of my Christmas music collection. So for Christmas I gift-wrapped four audio cassettes of the finest recordings from my collection and gave them to family and friends. Each gift collection was accompanied by an 8-page type-written directory with a Chinese red cover titled “A Gift of Sound.” Besides having a decorative, though primitive look, the directory of song titles was intended to be easier on the eyes than my barely legible long-hand. Just imagine writing the same information on cassette index cards four times twelve, or forty-eight total! The thought was enough to give me writer’s cramps. My quaint IBM Selectric II typewriter, however, saved me the trouble and as a result the directory included not only selection titles, but also brief liner notes that sometimes indicated the origin of each carol, holiday song, or instrumental piece.

Some of my friends included those of the Jewish faith married to Christian partners. They admitted that although they usually felt left out at Christmas, they were indeed appreciative of my eclectic Christmas music gift. What made the collection special for most was the quality of the music. Quite unlike what they were accustomed to hearing during the holidays, it encompassed Gregorian chant, once the Christmas music of its day, and such classical pieces as "Anima  Nostra,” Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio,” the German motet ""Hort zu lieben Leute," and the Spanish villancico, "Riu, Riu, Chiu” just to name a few. The collection was rounded out by lyrical English carols from the 16th and 17th centuries, and better known traditional fare, particularly carol hymns as "O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Adeste Fidelis,” or classic holiday songs as “White Christmas,” and “The Christmas Song.” In all, the four cassette collection totaled one hundred and twenty-four titles. Most came from England, France, Germany, and the United States. Entries from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Italy, and Sweden were also part of the mix. By the end of the 1988 Christmas season I was being encouraged by several friends to do something about my great interest in Christmas music, suggesting that I should pursue my interest and take advantage of my college degree. This I did. And in 1989 I was on my way.

SPECIAL PERSON OF THE DAYÉmile Waldteufel (December 9, 1837 – February 12, 1915)

The composer of Les Patineurs, Op. 183, Émile Waldteufel died in Paris and is buried at Cimetière du Père Lachaise there. The composer was born in Strasbourg, France to a Jewish Alsatian family of musicians. In 1882 he composed the best-known waltz of his career – Les Patineurs (a.k.a. "The Skaters’ Waltz" in English). Inspired by the Cercle des Patineurs, or "’Rink of Skaters’ at the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, the waltz has since been played in various venues, from concert halls to movies such as The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and Chariots of Fire, to music games like Gamecube’s “’Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix” and Arc System Works’ “Princess on Ice.”

Waldteufel’s famous waltz evokes wonderful imagery: a poised skater gracefully gliding along the ice and swirling about a ring of other skaters as part of the wintry atmosphere. The delightful music includes the sound of bells that adds a nice touch to the outdoor scene. The noted conductor Arturo Toscanini led the NBC Symphony Orchestra on January 28, 1945, at Carnegie Hall, New York, in a fine RCA Victor recording of Les Patineurs

 

 

 

 

 

 
Grave of Émile Waldteufel