Yes indeed, snow has certainly fallen on snow in Scotland this week, and perhaps it's the effect of that, or perhaps I am softening in my old age. But I, usually the most, unwilling of Christmas celebrants (insert rant here re. monstrous orgy of Western self-indulgence etc etc) am going to take a leaf from the book of dear, old, cuddly Gordon (Mr. Twinkly Christmas Magic, himself) and write about some Christmas songs.
Firstly, The Innocence Mission (pictured), a dream pop/folk group from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA, centred around husband-and-wife songwriters Karen and Don Peris, have made a couple of new recordings for Advent and Christmas that they are offering for free download on soundcloud, along with a third, older Christmas recording. Grouped under the title of ‘December 2010′, the release features new recordings of ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ and ‘Joy To The World’ (see below), Advent hymn ‘O Lord Of Light’ from their 2000 album Christ Is My Hope, and a guitar instrumental of ‘Angels We Have Heard On High’ from Don Peris’s solo album Brighter Visions Beam Afar. You can also hear, but not download, ‘Gentle The Rain At Home’. This track is from the excellent album My Room In The Trees, released in July of this year. If you're not familiar with them, try to have a listen. It's well worth it, if only for the mesmerising quality of Karen's vocals.
In the Bleak Midwinter by the innocence mission
Joy to the World by the innocence mission
In the Bleak Midwinter is my favourite Christmas carol and I really love that version of it. I have always been entranced by this melody, composed by Holst to fit the irregular metre of Christina Rossetti's poetry, but it's really the poetry itself that made it stand out amongst all the other Christmas songs. I vividly remember singing this at primary school and suddenly understanding exactly the landscape conjured by the similes of the first stanza.
- In the bleak midwinter
- Frosty wind made moan,
- Earth stood hard as iron,
- Water like a stone;
- Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
- Snow on snow,
- In the bleak midwinter,
- Long ago.
I wouldn't have expresed it that way at the time, of course, but this song definitely represents one of my first introductions to the beauty and mystery of words and poetry. I also used to love the noble humility expressed in the final verse and would sing it in a strangled childhood treble with a lump in my wee throat and a sheen of tears in my eyes (you must remember I was an unusually sensitive mite. As a child my hero was not some flashy footballer but doomed to failure, Scottish missionary; David Livingstone)
- What can I give him,
- Poor as I am?
- If I were a shepherd
- I would bring a lamb,
- If I were a wise man
- I would do my part,
- Yet what I can I give Him —
- Give my heart.
Anyway, that's quite enough of that, don't know what came over me there. This next offering couldn't be more different. Today sees the release of 'Seasonal Greet', a Christmas EP from legendary Scottish miserabilists, and Streetlamp favourites, The Just Joans. As usual, the EP can be ordered from the WeePOP! site and, also as usual, they are offering a free MP3 of one of the tracks; Card From A Multipack, to give you a little taster. I must admit, I've not heard the whole EP yet but I can tell you that Card From A Multipack is absolutely brilliant; a typically wry and melancholy Just Joans gem. Listen to it here or here. Now I'm going to get a hold of the EP and I suggest that you do too.