December 2, 2015

Conductors choose their favorite holiday songs

Are you one of those people that starts listening to Christmas music after Labor Day? Or maybe you prefer to wait until December 1 to cue up the sounds of the season. No matter when you are ready to get into the holiday spirit, we know it’s annoying when the radio plays the same arrangements over and over. Even if you have your favorite holiday CDs or MP3s, we at the RPO make it our mission to expose you to a wide range of wonderful music! Enjoy these playlists of holiday favorites handpicked by RPO Music Director Ward Stare, Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik, and Michael Butterman, principal conductor for education and community engagement.

Please note you may have to sign up for a free Spotify account in order to enjoy these playlists. Spotify is a free music streaming site.

Ward Stare’s Holiday Playlist

1) Silent Night
y all-time favorite Christmas carol. I used to sing it in church

    with my grandfather at Christmas Eve services. I always get 
    sentimental no matter what version I hear!

2) “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
      from A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra (1957)

3) I’ll Be Home for Christmas performed by Bing Crosby
   There are many great versions out there, but Bing Crosby was the

   first to record it in 1943.

4) White Christmas performed by Bing Crosby
    A true standard from the good ‘ol days!

5) “Jingle Bells” from Christmas by Michael BublĂ© (2011)
    I really like Michael BublĂ©’s recent version on his Christmas album. It’s very upbeat and 

    fun with great playing and vocals, including the Puppini Sisters, a trio of vocalists whose  
    sound is reminiscent of The Andrews Sisters.

Jeff Tyzik’s Holiday Playlist 

I have produced several holiday CDs over the past 20 years so I like to listen to some of them at the holidays!

1) Stylistics Christmas CD (1992)
    Lots of good traditional tunes performed by one of the most    

    famous Motown groups.

2)  Every year I have to watch It's A Wonderful Life
     (We included a version of “Auld Lang Syne” in the playlist)

3) Tony Bennett's Holiday albums. Some songs are jazzy and some are 
    just plain beautiful! (We included several selections from Tony Bennett’s Snowfall (1968) 
    and A Swingin’ Christmas (2008) )

4) The RPO Holiday CDs. They bring me right back to the wonderful concerts we do.

Purchase a RPO holiday CD

5. I always catch WXXI Classical 91.5 FM’s broadcast of the previous season’s
   RPO Gala Pops.

WXXI's RPO Holiday Concert broadcast schedule

Michael Butterman’s Holiday Playlist

1) Ave Maria performed by Chanticleer
    When it comes to just plain gorgeous harmonies, it’s hard to 

    beat Franz Biebl's piece. I’ve sung and conducted it  
    innumerable times, and nearly every performance is associated 
    with a strong memory.

2) Christmas Lullaby performed by Cary Grant (1967)
    I must admit that I just heard Cy Coleman's piece for the first 

    time last year. For me, it’s not so much the song, as the
    performance delivered by Cary Grant in his recording. He really 
    just speaks most of the time, with musical underscoring, but it is 
    just about the most touching thing one could imagine.
    His love for his daughter comes through in such an earnest and genuine way.

Listen to Cary Grant's Christmas Lullaby

The Secret of Christmas performed by Ella Fitzgerald
    Bing Crosby recorded it, but my favorite version of this carol written by Sammy Cahn and 

    Jimmy Van Heusen is Ella Fitzgerald's version. Again, very simple and mellow, but  
    incredibly affecting, remind us to carry the spirit of Christmas with us 
    throughout the year.

4) The 12 Gifts of Christmas arranged by Jeff Tyzik
    I absolutely love Jeff’s original adaptation of the famous carol. It’s so clever and

    entertaining, with lots of “musical insider” types of references. I’ve conducted it now   
    many times and in many cities, and it never fails to bring the house down.

Listen to Jeff Tyzik's arrangement performed by the RPO

5) This Christmastide (Jessye’s Carol) written by Donald Fraser
    Gorgeous work written for Jessye Norman and chorus.
    Simple, expressive, and heartwarming.

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