Today’s Christmascious song is by the English composer Michael Head. The first time I heard The Little Road To Bethlehem was when Hayley Westenra included it on her Christmas album and I’ve loved it ever since! I particularly like the slightly irregular time signature which keeps you on your toes!
Today’s song is Paul McCartney’s 1983 Christmas #1, Pipes Of Peace. The video accompanying this single saw McCartney playing the roles of a British and German soldier in the 1914 Christmas truce between troops fighting in World War I. During the football match in No Man’s Land, the two soldiers exchange photos of their loved ones. A shell blast forces both sides to withdraw, and the two men realise they still have each other’s photos. If it sounds familiar from more recent times, it’s because the 2014 Sainsbury’s Christmas ad took its inspiration from this video! You can compare the two here: here’s Pipes Of Peace, and here’s the Sainsbury’s ad.
Today’s Christmacious tune is Wham’s 1984 classic Last Christmas with my own ‘piano ballad’ reworking. This song was kept firmly at the #2 spot as a result of Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas, which also involved George Michael and Andrew Ridgley. However, Last Christmas has made it into the best selling UK singles in the Christmas charts in 1985, 1986, 1987 and then every year since 2007! It’s been covered by everyone from Whigfield (of Saturday Night fame, a song I don’t think I’ll ever include in my 365songs project!) to Crazy Frog, with Joe McElderry and Ariana Grande somewhere in between.
I was wondering which song to play this morning and I discovered a friend had had a real fairytale evening last night in New York: she and her boyfriend watched NYC ballet perform The Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center and then her boyfriend proposed to her in Central Park! I thought Fairytale Of New York would be a good choice for today’s 365Song. ¡Muchísimas felicidades a Teresa y a Jorge!
The 1987 song by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl apparently came about as the result of a bet by their producer at the time, Elvis Costello, who wagered that the band would not be able to come up with a Christmas song. Fairytale Of New York was born and promptly topped the Irish charts. It was kept off the #1 spot in the UK by The Pet Shop Boys’ Always On My Mind.
After not being able to find any information about yesterday’s Christmacious tune, there is almost too much to write about Hark The Herald Angels Sing! This popular carol was written in 1739 by Charles Wesley and later adapted by Wesley’s colleague George Whitefield. However the version we know today uses music by none other than Felix Mendelssohn who, in 1840, wrote a cantata in commemoration of Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. Music from this cantata was adapted by English composer William H. Cummings to fit Whitefield’s words. Earlier this month I played Once In Royal David’s City which is used as the opening hymn at the King’s College Chapel Cambridge Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Hark The Herald Angels Sing has been used for many years as the closing carol for this service and it remains one of the most well-loved English carols.
In doing research for my song each day I can normally find information fairly easily about the stories behind the songs. However, there doesn’t seem to be much information about A Cradle In Bethlehem anywhere online other than the fact it was written by Alfred Bryan and Larry Stock! I’ve known this song for years as it was always one of my favourites on the Nat King Cole Christmas album. Having said that I’d never played it until yesterday when I recorded it for my 365Songs project! If you know anything more about the song, please let me know in the comments!
Today’s song Do They Know It’s Christmas, the charity single which entered the UK charts at #1 some 31 years ago yesterday. Inspired by the series of reports by Michael Buerk on the famine in Ethiopia, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure wrote Do They Know It’s Christmas in November 1984 and then brought together the great and the good from the world of popular music at the time to record the single on 25 November, releasing it on 3rd December. The song stayed at #1 in the charts for five weeks and with various rereleases and rerecordings, it has raised many millions for charity.
Today’s song is the lovely Joni Mitchell song from 1971 in which she laments on the end of a relationship as Christmas approaches. (Cheery, I know!) River has been covered by many artists, from Ronan Keating to Lea Michele, but I think my favourite cover is by Madeleine Peyroux. I hope you enjoy my version.
Today’s song was written Jay Livingston and Ray Evans and was first performed in the 1950 film The Lemon Drop Kid by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell. The first recorded version of Silver Bells was released in the same year by Bing Crosby.
Apparently it was originally written as “Tinkle Bells”, and it wasn’t until Jay Livingston let his wife hear it that he found out that “tinkle” has another meaning!
It’s 13th December today, St Lucia’s Day, and I thought it would be appropriate to play something Swedish given that this is such an important celebration in the run-up to Christmas. Vinterhamn, written by Björn Ulvæus and Benny Andersson, and performed perfectly by the wonderful Helen Sjöholm at the televised Luciamorgon service in 2012 from Uppsala cathedral, is a spiritual winter song, referring to Vinterhamn, the winter harbour. Whether it’s physical or on a more spiritual level, the winter harbour gives strength and protection, and peace of mind.
Här kan jag hämta styrka
Du ger mig skydd och sinnesfrid.
När snön sakta faller
Då kommer julen till mitt hus.