List of Acceptable Christmas Music

I’ll probably submit this to Wikipedia.

1. Sufjan Stevens, Songs for Christmas

I don’t think we give Sufjan nearly enough credit in general, but certainly we should all be bowing down on our knees when December 25 comes around.  Simply put: Sufjan saved Christmas music.  All of it.  All of the familiar carols and songs, the trite lyrics, the pat harmonies.  He redeemed them, re-invented, and glorified them.  And all it took was a banjo and some oboes.

He also wrote some great new classics from scratch:

2. Tomás Luis de Victoria, O Magnum Mysterium

3. Gian Carlo Menotti, Amahl and the Night Visitors

This is likely the best thing Menotti ever wrote.  Pieces like The Medium and The Telephone have so many silly melodramatic moments and text-setting gaffs that they just don’t hold together.  Amahl is simple and tunely, contains a musical setting of the line “This is my box. This is my box. I never travel without my box,” and always makes me cry right here:

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4. In Dulci Jubilo

I love the tune, and I love the back and forth between Latin and Olde English.  I love how “show” is spelled “shew”.

5. Alfred Schnittke’s “Stille Nacht

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6. John Adams’ El Niño

7. “Glory to God” by Yours Truly

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You didn’t seriously think I would leave this out, did you?

8. Benjamin Britten, A Ceremony of Carols

Marginal:

– “Silver and Gold” as sung by Burl Ives on the original Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer soundtrack

– The Vince Guaraldi Christmas Album

– The Little Drummer Boy

– “The Eight Days of Christmas” by Destiny’s Child

Specifically unacceptable:

– Morten Lauridson, O Magnum Mysterium

– This:

– And everything it represents.

– Everything else not specifically on one of the above lists.

Am I missing anything?


10 Responses to “List of Acceptable Christmas Music”

  1. The Little Drummer Boy? Really? Explain.

  2. No way! Does it use the “Bolero” ostinato? That would be all kinds of awesome.

    Maybe I just can’t get past the strawmen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9egKDz0by44 who’ve sung that song, although I suppose that http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAR1A4wGWEM would also disqualify the Hallelujah Chorus as worth the listen.

  3. Oh wait…I see now that there are a lot of Ravel drummer boys out there. Well, still a good idea…

  4. Pennamé says:

    The Christmas section of Liszt’s “Christus” is quite nice and the Pastorale from Bach’s Christmas oratorio is what I grew up with. Also, Justin Bieber’s “Fa la la.”

    • willcwhite says:

      Yeah I sort of shied away from including any of the true classical masterworks on any of these lists. No Messiah, no Nutcrackr… these pieces are beyond requiring my judgement.

      A few more numbers I’d gladly add to the Acceptable list, regardless of their incarnation: Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen, Puer natus est, There is no Rose of Such Virtue.

  5. alex mendelsohn says:

    I must add a couple. First, John Denver and the Muppets have one of the best Christmas albums out there. Have a listen to the 12 Days of Christmas.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDBMzGq1vhs

    Second, I must submit a vote for Carl Schalk’s Before the Marvel of This Night. Though I prefer the organ accompaniment, here is a clip of the Baylor A Cappella Choir singing this, with an orchestra.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxDb1-IAyfc&feature=related

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