Essay / Misc.

Christmas Playlists

For several years, my wife and I have had a tradition of sharing our favorite Christmas music with friends. It started as actual mix tapes in the mid 90s, but has been CDs since then. We have a pretty good collection of Christmas music, and of course we have excellent taste! Here are a few of the best Christmas playlists we’ve made over the years.

The Best Christmas Tape Ever
This one was made by Susan and is unsurpassable. To approximate its awesomeness, just buy the following five CDs and keep them in heavy rotation: Baltimore Consort’s Bright Day Star, Chanticleer’s Sing We Christmas, Boston Camerata’s Renaissance Christmas, Andrew Parrott and the Taverner Consort’s Carol Album, and the London Brass Christmas. But we also sprinkled in some boy’s choir American Boychoir and a couple tracks with a soprano and classical guitar (Parkening and Battles). I know the internet will bring us all good things in due time, but it hasn’t yet caught up with this mix tape (until those magical Chanticleer and London Brass tracks become available, at least).

Ding Dong Merrily on High (Baltimore Consort)
2. In Dulci Jubilo (Chanticleer)
3. Stille Nacht (Taverner Consort)
4. Away in a Manger (London Brass)
5. Wie Schoen Leuchtet der Morgenstern (Boston Camerata)
6. A Christmas Jig (Baltimore Consort)
7. Verbum Caro Factum Est (Chanticleer)
8. Noel Canon (Chanticleer)
9. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (American Boychoir)
10. Bransle de Poicton (Boston Camerata)
11. Es Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen (Chanticleer)
12. Tomorrow Will Be My Dancing Day (Baltimore Consort)
13. Hodie Christus Natus Est (Chanticleer)
14. Il Est Ne, le Divin Enfant (inst) (Taverner Consort)
15. Joy to the World (American Boychoir)
16. Christum Wir Sollen Loben Schon (Taverner Consort)
17. The First Nowell (London Brass)
18. Verbum Caro Factum Est: Y La Virgen (Taverner Consort)
19. Riu Riu Chiu (Boston Camerata)
20. Jesus Christ the Apple Tree (Clare College Choir)
21. Christmas Day in da Mornin (Baltimore Consort)
22. Tau Garco, la Durandena (Boston Camerata)
23. Jubilation (Kathleen Battle and Christopher Parkening)
24. Gabriel’s Message (London Brass)
25. Gaudete! (Taverner Consort)
26. Veni Veni Emmanuel (London Brass)
27. Jesus the Light of the World (Kathleen Battle and Christopher Parkening)
28. In Dir ist Freude (Baltimore Consort)
29. A Virgin Unspotted (Chanticleer)

Old Fashioned Christmas A louder mix with fewer sacred selections, but this one is great fun. The only complaint is that it needs more Otis Redding. But then, just about everything needs more Otis Redding.

1. Jingle Bells (Benny Goodman)
2. Here Comes Santa Claus (Elvis Presley)
3. Merry Christmas Baby (Otis Redding)
4. Round and Round the Christmas Tree (Bing Crosby)
5. Ring Dem Bells (Duke Ellington)
6. What Will Sana Claus Say (Louis Prima)
7. Jingle Bells (Duke Ellington)
8. Santa Claus is Coming to Town (Tommy Dorsey)
9. Christmas in New Orleans (Louis Armstrong)
10. HOT Christmas (Squirrel Nut Zippers)
11. Santa’s Back in Town (Elvis Presley)
12. Swingin’ them Jingle Bells (Fats Waller)
13. Mistletoe and Holly (Frank Sinatra)
14. Santa Claus Blues (Louis Armstrong)
15. Little Jack Frost Get Lost (Frankie Carle)
16. Jingle Bells (Frank Sinatra)
17. Adeste Fideles (Bing Crosby)
18. Christmastime in Harlem (Louis Armstrong with Benny Carter)
19. Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me (Elvis Presley)
20. Santa Claus Came in the Spring (Benny Goodman)
21. Sleigh Ride! (Squirrel Nut Zippers)
22. Boogie Woogie Santa Claus (Lionel Hampton)
23. Deck the Halls (Bing Crosby)

Cozy Country Christmas This was one of our most successful genre efforts (far better than that year we tried death-metal Christmas, or yuletide ska). Starting with a handful of great, warm Christmas songs by country artists, we started fishing around for Bluegrass and old-fashioned Americana kind of sounds. There’s a lot of good stuff out there, and we came up with this set.

1. Joy to the World (Cody McCoury)
2. Good Christian Men, Rejoice (Steve Ivey)
3. O Come, All Ye Faithful (Carly Pearce)
4. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (Dr. Elmo)
5. Silent Night (Joe Nichols)
6. O Little Town of Bethlehem (Dolly Parton)
7. Carol of the Bells (Patty Loveless)
8. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (Carly Pearce)
9. The Friendly Beasts (Riders in the Sky)
10. What Child is This (Rachel White)
11. Sweet Little Jesus Boy (Trisha Yearwood)
12. Sleigh Ride/Jingle Bells (Michael Martin Murphey)
13. Go Tell it On the Mountain (Steve Ivey)
14. Deck the Halls (Ricky Skaggs)
15. Blue Grass, White Snow (Patty Loveless)
16. Celebrate (Steve Ivey)
17. We Three Kings (Dolly Parton)
18. Away in a Manger (Joe Nichols)
19. Little Drummer Boy (Molly Skaggs)
20. Beautiful Star of Bethlehem (Patty Loveless)
21. Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee (Carly Pearce)
22. Greensleeves (Dr. Elmo)
23. Amen (Carly Pearce)

New Age Christmas Sorry the title is icky, but that’s the genre name. This playlist is our 2010 collection, and it includes retro-futuristic synthesizers with robot drummers (what people in the 80s thought all music was going to sound like in the 2000s), breathy moogs, and atmospheric ambient acoustics. Our efforts at perfection were hampered by the fact that (1) Yanni has no Christmas album, what’s up with that? (2) Kitaro’s solstice music is weak even by New Age standards, what’s up with that? (3) Mike Oldfield’s unsurpassably weedly-deedly In Dulci Jubilo is not available as a legal mp3, what’s up with that?

My friends, is this music a guilty pleasure? Yes, it is. To paraphrase Robert E. Lee, “It is well that Mannheim Steamroller is so terrible; otherwise we would grow too fond of it.” But I will brook no complaints against Jon Anderson’s Christmas album, Three Ships. You will only lower my opinion of you.

1. Carol of the Bells – George Winston
2. The Holly and the Ivy – Jon Anderson
3. Sussex Carol – George Winston
4. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – Mannheim Steamroller
5. How It Hits You – Jon Anderson
6. Circle of Joy – Lisa Lynne et al
7. God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen – Mannheim Steamroller
8. Easier Said Than Done – Jon Anderson
9. Hark! The Herald Trumpets Sing – Mannheim Steamroller
10. 2,000 Years – Jon Anderson
11. We Three Kings – Mannheim Steamroller
12. Joy – George Winston
13. Medley – Alex de Grassi
14. Wassail, Wassail – Mannheim Steamroller
15. Ding Dong Merrily on High – Jon Anderson
16. Angels We Have Heard on High – Mannheim Steamroller
17. Angels from the Realms of Glory – Barbara Higbie
18. In the Bleak Midwinter – 2002
19. Joseph Dear Oh Joseph Mine – Mannheim Steamroller
20. Hymne – Vangelis
21. Veni Veni (O Come O Come Emmanuel) – Mannheim Steamroller
22. Where Were You? – Jon Anderson
23. Miraculum – Enya

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