The evolution of Christmas music at home.
Even thought we didn’t decorate our Christmas tree until Christmas Eve while was growing up, we did begin playing Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving. After telling Alexa to play jazz Christmas music on iHeart radio, I’m marveling at how much the listening experience has changed.
Currently, I’m streaming “The Christmas Song” performed by a jazz steel drum ensemble. Shazam doesn’t even know who they are.
My earliest memories of Christmas music involved a stack of 45s played on a small record player with a built in speaker. I am still amazed by the mechanics of the record changer. A stack of 9 records might give you half-an-hour of non-stop music. Then you flipped the stack over to listen to all the other sides. Songs I remember include Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, Silent Night, Rudolph the Red- Nosed Reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman.
Next song is “Do you hear what I hear?” played by a solo jazz guitarist that Shazam also cannot identify.
Sometime in the 60’s my parents bought a console stereo system, a five foot long piece of furniture with built-in speakers, receiver and turntable. My mom and dad bought a number of 33 LPs, which provided multiple-tracks per side, about 45 minutes of music per side. We could load a stack of those and have hours of music in the house before we had to flip them over. The label “hi fidelity” on the outside of the console meant it was state of the art for the time, but in reality not much better than what we had before. Mostly just louder. The albums I most remember include “The Many Moods of Christmas” by the Robert Shaw Chorale, a Perry Como Christmas album, and a narrated LP of “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and the b-side “Rudolph’s Second Christmas.”
Next song streaming: “I’ll be home for Christmas” by vocalist Brian McKnight.
Around this same time, some FM stations began playing non-stop Christmas music on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We would play that station non-stop for those two days, exposing us to much more music.
Next song: “We with you a Merry Christmas” by Terry Wollman’s ensemble.
I never acquired any 8-tracks, so cassettes were next. It must have been after I got married that we got a stereo receiver with a cassette deck. It certainly was a lot easier to accumulate, store and take along cassettes filled with Christmas music. Until it broke or stretched or twisted or got stuck. From those days I remember Canadian Brass, Amy Grant, and The Carpenters.
Next song: Louis Armstrong, “Zat You, Santa Claus?”
By the time we came to Florida, most of our music had migrated to compact disks. These were great because you could easily skip to whatever song you wanted. Our collection included Stan Kenton Christmas, more Canadian Brass, and many different vocalists. We still have some of our CDs around, somewhere, but don’t play them very often. If I do pull them out, I have to play them on our DVD player. Cause we stream most of our music.
Current song: “Angels We Have Heard on High” by Caribbean Jazz Project.
Depending on where I am, I’ll go to iHeart radio, Pandora, Spotify or Amazon Prime to stream any artist or genre of Christmas music I’m in the mood for, on a phone, iPad, computer or Echo. And the music will play forever if you let it. Youtube has plenty to choose from, including live performances to watch. Netflix offers a four-hour fire with Christmas music in the background.
Current song: an old recording of “Winter Wonderland” by Ella Fitzgerald.
Plus, for any song that plays, I can use Shazam to find the lyrics, play a video, and buy it for myself if I want to add it to a device.
It really is amazing how much music has both changed and stayed the same. So many of the tunes are classic. So many arrangements are new, making the variety almost endless.
Current song: “Let it snow” by Wynton Marsalis.
The least-evolved part of Christmas music in my home is pulling out my guitar to sing with my kids, both a generation ago and now with my grandchildren. Never gets old!
One more: “Feliz Navidad” by Spyro Gyra.