December 2, 2008

This Week's Holiday Music Picks

Tuvan Throat Singers doing Jingle Bells. Five different interpretations of Dona Nobis Pacem. Little Drummer Boy done in the style of Bolero. Waltz of the Ruggelah. Over the years I've become an inveterate collector of holiday music - the more unusual, the better - and these are just a few of the selections I've been listening to this past week. A few are brand new CDs, and some I've had in my collection for years.

  • Bela Fleck & the Flecktones' new CD opens with the percussive sound of horses' hooves and then the deep throaty sound of Tuvan singing. Once you realize it's Jingle Bells, you can't help but chuckle. They go on to cover the classic Christmas Time is Here and Linus & Lucy from the Peanuts Christmas special, as well as a selection from Bach's Christmas Oratorio and Joni Mitchell's River. Never a dull moment with Bela and the guys.
  • Last Thursday while we were having our Thanksgiving feast, we listened to Klezmer Nutcracker Shirim in honor of the RPO's Nutcracker performances with the Rochester City Ballet. This is a wonderful interpretation of Tchaikovsky's music with fun titles like Dance of the Latkes Queens and Dance of the Dreydls. It also includes Gustav's Wedding from Mahler's First Symphony, which sounds like Frere Jacques but done in a minor key.
  • Yo-Yo Ma has released a new CD featuring a number of guest artists performing Songs of Joy and Peace. It includes Dave Brubeck, James Taylor, Natalie MacMaster, Alison Krauss, Renee Fleming (along with Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile - quite an unusual combination!), hotshot ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro, Chris Botti, and the Assad Brothers. The latter is interesting to hear since the RPO will be playing a brand new guitar concerto by Sergio Assad in February. This CD is well worth checking out.
  • Another favorite in my collection is the RPO's CD A Holiday Celebration. I love Jeff Tyzik's version of Little Drummer Boy which takes off on the percussive sound of Bolero. Plus it includes selections from John Williams' score to Home Alone - which is a really funny movie but these songs can be very poignant as well. Both of these will be on the RPO's Gala Holiday Pops concerts in a few weeks - so you'll have a chance to hear them performed live. (click here for more info).
  • And for another version of Little Drummer Boy (this one by jazz singer Cassandra Wilson), you can't beat Jazz to the World. This was a special collection released a few years back to support Special Olympics and has some great stuff by Chick Corea, Diana Krall, John McLaughlin, and others.
Well, I hoped you have enjoyed this brief foray into my record collection. I plan on posting more selections for your listening pleasure next week...

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