Thursday, December 29, 2011

Breakfast with Sophie

In an earlier post I alluded to meeting one of my favorite musicians while in New York.  That musician was the totally amazing Sophie Madeleine, the Duchess of Awesomeshire (made that up myself).

I've posted a couple entries in the past about Sophie Madeleine, here and here.  I discovered Sophie's music in 2009, somewhere on the internet.  When her video for "You Are My Favorite" was released and featured on, I was hooked.  It was the happiest video I'd ever seen, and I loved Sophie's song.

Shortly thereafter I bought "Love, Life, Ukulele", Sophie's first album release.  In 2011 she released "The Rhythm You Started" as her second solo album, and "We Like Cake and Beards and Stuff" with Hannah-Rei as the duo Rocky and Balls.

In the past year and a half, I've listened to Sophie more than any other artist.  And, believe me, I listen to a lot of music.  One of the perks of having an office - speakers attached to the computer and the freedom to listen for a goodly part of the day.

So, prior to my trip to New York, I contacted Sophie (exactly how will remain private) and asked if she and a guest would like to join my wife and I for breakfast (her public Facebook page had the information that she was in NYC).  You know, you don't accomplish things unless you ask.  So I just asked, as politely and unobtrusively as I could.  I was thrilled when I got the response back from Sophie - she and her boyfriend would love to meet us!

We worked out the details, and met for breakfast at a diner in New York near Grand Central Station.  Sophie and her boyfriend Tim spent an hour or so with us, chatting over breakfast (French Toast for Sophie and me, omelets for Tim and my wife).  We talked about many things - the differences in Christmas time between Kansas City, New York, and England; the live production of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Sophie and Tim had seen the night before; what to do while in the city; Sophie's popularity in the USA, etc.   We had a wonderful time talking with them - Sophie and Tim are superbly nice people, and seemed to enjoy the time meeting us mid-westerners as much as we enjoyed meeting them.

Toward the end of breakfast, Sophie very graciously let me be a silly fan.  She signed a couple CD cases I happened to have with me, with the ultra-fine black Sharpie I also just happened to be carrying :-)  She recorded a little personal greeting to my daughter, who is also a big fan, and who did not know about this breakfast meeting.  And she posed for a few pictures, posted below.

We concluded breakfast, walked together toward Grand Central Station, all wished one another a Merry Christmas, and parted ways.  It was, indeed, a lovely way to spend a morning.

Frankly, I would not have been more pleased if I had breakfast with Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, or Lady Gaga.

Sophie is an amazing artist.  She is an accomplished singer and ukulele player (guitar as well).  She writes all of her own songs, and, as Tim proudly pointed out, also produces and engineers her records.  I'm pretty sure she does most of the work on her videos, too.

I hope that this post spurs my readers to check out the music of Sophie Madeleine.  Her music is all available on iTunes and Amazon.  She has a youtube channel ('misssophiemadeleine'), a Facebook page, and a blog called Sophieland.  She did an incredible 30 cover songs in 30 days last summer to promote the release of her CD (all available on Youtube). Check her out, and if you like what you hear, buy her music :-)  And tell all your friends.

Breakfast with Sophie Madeleine:

Christmas in NYC

As promised in an earlier post, here are a few pictures from my trip to New York City earlier in December.  I hope you enjoy them.

Near Radio City Music Hall/Rockefeller Center

Inside Tiffany & Co.

Lady Gaga's Workshop, in Barney's Department Store

Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center.  Note the other camera phones :-)

Flatiron Building.  I'm sure I'm one of the first tourists to take this picture...  ;-)

Da Nico, in Little Italy.  Had a fantastic dinner here.

A few scenes from Santaland

Windows at Tiffany & Co.

Radio City at night

Christmas Tree in Bryant Park, NY Public Library in the background.

The Origami Tree at the Museum of Natural History

Windows at Lord & Taylor - spectacular!

And, lastly, me and my wife with a Rockette.  The Rockette is the one in the middle :-)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Fever

I'm not talking about the 1957 song "Christmas Fever" by "Timmy Christmas"  (by the way - a great story about that song at the WFMU Beware of the Blog site here).  I'm talking real fever, of the Grinchy Christmas-stealing kind.  I had started antibiotics on Friday the 23rd to kill off a sinus infection, when all of a sudden, in swoops a virus.  Antibiotics HA! says the virus, and proceeds to give me a fever and bodyaches for the next three days.  My Christmas cocktails consisted of alternating ibuprofen and acetaminophen, OTC dextromethorphan, OTC pseudoephedrine, and the usual scrips for the ol' blood pressure and cholesterol.  All under the watchful eye of the oldest Bingle child, who is in a Doctor of Pharmacy program.

Christmas morning was super, aided by 600mg of ibuprofen at 6AM, before the 7AM awakening by the Bingle children.  All was great with the family - me, my wife, the five children, and our son--in-law, the husband of our oldest.  Hung in there pretty well through about noon, then a nap took me (that's more accurate than "I took a nap").  45 minutes before time to leave home for the in-laws, temp was about 97.2.  I'm not dead yet, sire.  15 minutes before time to leave, temp was 100.5.  Der Bingle stayed home, the rest of the family left.  Temp peaked at 101.6 before the ibuprofen took hold again.  So, while the rest of the family enjoyed Christmas dinner and festivities with the extended family, I slept the afternoon away and drank lots of water.

All is well now, though.  Fever gone, antibiotics still fighting the sinus infection.  Feeling good again.

So what's the point of this post, besides relating the story to the world?  Well, one thought that really crystallized was that it's not Christmas day that I look forward to every year, it's Christmas season.  The season starts in earnest for me on November 1 and goes through the New Year.  So, instead of a year away, it's 10 months.  A shorter wait :-)  

I knew this all along, but not quite as clearly as I do now.  Our family does many, many things during the season, including candy making, lots of music-related stuff, usually attending a concert or play, Christmas cards, Christmas movies and classic TV shows, and more.  And to me, it's not just a build-up to the 25th of December, it's all a tremendous celebration of family, friends, and good feelings, spanning the last two months of the year.

So, I had an awesome Christmas season again this year, despite being under the weather on the big day.  Sharing music, getting new music, a trip to New York City, candy making, friends, family, shopping, watching the children unwrap the presents we'd given them - tremendous!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thank you all for the kind comments.  It is my absolute pleasure to share the joys of Christmas music with you, and to reunite so many with the songs remembered from childhood.

May you all have a very happy and safe holiday season with family and friends!

Der Bingle

Saturday, December 24, 2011

An Orchestral Finale

Here we are on Christmas Eve, approaching the finale of the sharing season.  Der Bingle is in Day 3 of fighting a sinus infection and/or cold and/or flu, but is on the upswing today.  Good thing, too - have to be ready for the big day tomorrow.

For the final share of this season, I've chosen "Tis the Season", a selection of Christmas songs performed by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Giordano.  The album contains 10 tracks, including a very well-performed Nutcracker Suite and "Christmas Eve", an accompanied narration of "The Night Before Christmas", narrated by Mel Dacus.

These are traditional arrangements, performed expertly by the orchestra.  I think you'll enjoy them.

Please enjoy 'Tis the Season  download link

And so, that concludes this season's shares.  I hope you have enjoyed them, despite a few hiccups with artwork and stereo.  Have a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Winding Down - the Penultimate Shares

Here are two more shares for my faithful readers here on the 23rd.  Christmas is pretty much a 2-day event in the house of Der Bingle.  On Christmas Eve things get going in mid-afternoon with Mass attendance, then dinner at Mom's place, then back home to settle in for the Christmas Eve evening, accompanied by "A Christmas Story", hot spiced cider, and other festivities.  Christmas morning kicks off at 7:00AM and continues through the day.

So, the pace will pick up soon.  However, I have two shares today, and will do the last one tomorrow morning.

First up today is "Christmas Is", by Pamela Wilson and the Symphony Royale of London.  This is a 1985 vinyl release on the Snowflake records label.  There are 10 songs performed by Ms. Wilson, the Coloratura Soprano with the orchestra.  Even at 10 tracks, the album is fairly short, clocking in at under 28 minutes.  The performances are good and enjoyable.

download link

Second is "The Magnificent Music of Christmas".  This is another of those Christmas albums with no artist credits.  It is on the "Westerfield" label, and offers up 12 tracks of orchestral/chorale music. 

Not too much more I can tell you about this record.  Please enjoy some Magnificent Music!

download link

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A & P and Organ and Chimes

Two more for you today on the 22nd.

First up is "Christmas Greetings" from A&P (volume 3).  A&P was (is?) a grocery chain that, like so many grocery and department stores back in the day, released Christmas record collections featuring various artists.  Volume 3 is a 1972 release featuring some really great songs.  Per Tim Neely's book, there were 4 A&P records from 1970-1973.  A&P was not around in my part of the country, so in these parts this record is a rather unusual find.  I'm sure that in other parts of the country it's pretty common.

What caught my attention with this record is the closing song "Here's To You" by Cary Grant.  "Here's To You" was the B-side of "Christmas Lullaby", Cary Grant's 1967 single, and only Chrismas music performance.  "Here's To You", again per Tim Neely, has appeared only on the single and in this A&P collection.

Also catching my attention was "The Christmas Song" performed by Carol Burnett.  It has also appeared on two other collections, but is not something you see or hear every day.

Other great performances round out the record, including tracks by Tony Bennett, Johnny Cash, and Lynn Anderson.  Also included is a track by Barbra Streisand.  Barbra doesn't do a thing for me, Christmas music-wise or otherwise, but she has her fans out there.  Der Bingle just isn't one of them. 

A note on the cover art - the repeating Santa motif threw my image stitch application for a loop, so I had to do some manual cutting and pasting to get a workable cover image.  Apologies for poor color blends and other sub-par details in the artwork.

So, please enjoy the terrific collection A&P Christmas Greetings Vol 3.  download link

Next up is "Merry Christmas Carols with Organ and Chimes", performed on the Original Grand Wurlitzer Pipe Organ of Radio City Music Hall.  Now, Der Bingle loves Radio City Music Hall and all Christmassy things related.  So, I like this record a lot.  Generally, I hit a limit on organ/chime carols pretty quick before needing a break.  But this is a pretty good set of 17 songs.  No info on the performer.  Maybe the organ and chimes played themselves at night, ala "Night at the Museum".

Your Radio City fix for the day:  download link

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry and Bright in The Guardian

Merry and Bright garnered a mention in the online edition of The Guardian today!  The article highlighted a few online sources of Christmas music and info.  Cool stuff!  I'm sure the relatives will all be impressed at the Christmas festivites on Sunday :-)

St. Nicholas Boys Choir

Here is a nice little, and old, record featuring four songs by the St. Nicholas Boys Choir.  This is a 78 rpm record from the Royale label.  Not much information about this record on the web.  There are a couple Youtube videos of the record label with the songs playing, and the info there claims that this is a 1950s release. 


1  Silent Night, Holy Night
2  Adeste Fideles
3  God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
4  Hark the Herald Angels Sing


download link

Mike Sammes III

Had to do some more cleanup on this well-loved record.  New link, the last two songs have been replaced with better rips.  Third time is the charm, right?

Mike Sammes Singers download link

Shout Outs

I want to take a few minutes and give some shout-outs to all the great people out there that contribute to Christmas music on the web.  The efforts by all these fine folks help to keep the Christmas music flowing through the season.  I'm sure I'll forget a few - my apologies in advance, omissions are purely accidental.

Thanks to all of you for helping to make Christmas Merry and Bright!

Ernie - Ernie (Not Bert)
Buster - Big 10-Inch Record
Stubby - Stubby's House of Christmas
Ken Kessler - The Sounds of Christmas (best Christmas music Internet radio station of all!)
Ryan - Hi-Fi Holiday
Lee - Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anywhere Else
Randy - Hip Christmas
Dinsdale Kringle - Santas Working Overtime
The folks at Mistletunes
Esther at Stax o' Wax
And of course, the King of Jingaling at FaLaLaLaLa, who, despite taking the year off, still pops his head in to check things out every now and then.

And finally, all of the gang at the FaLaLaLaLa forum, in addition to those mentioned above:  Mr. Christmas, Smacque, Inkydog, DavesWorld56, RadioJonD, Tim Neely, and all the rest.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Three for Tuesday

Ha!  Those Two-fer-Tuesday people...  Der Bingle is going for a Three-fer today.

First up, yes indeed, more music from long, long ago.  Here is "Christemas in Anglia", subtitled "Early English Music for Christmastide".   You see, I hit the ancient music jackpot one day at the thrift store, so now all of my readers reape the benefits thy hast sown, or something like that, good sir.

"Christemas in Anglia" is performed by The Ensemble for Early Music, directed by Frederick Renz.  There are 13 tracks on the record, and loads of song information on the back cover.  Plus the album cover notes by the previous owner (as there have been on the others). 

"Christemas in Anglia" download link

Second, let's cross the channel and head to old Germany, for "Frohliche Weihnachten!", yes, punctuated with a !  "Frohliche Weihnachten!" gives us 14 German Christmas carols, performed by the Mannerchor der Volkswagenstadt Wolfsburg.   I wonder if the Mannerchor sang "Silver and Gold", they would say Silver one!  Gold one!   (Terrible joke....)

Ok, without further ado, "Froliche Weihnachten!"  download link

And lastly, here's your bonus share on three-fer night.  You know the little gadgets the As Seen On TV sales throw in at the end, like a juicer that you get with a Sham-Wow?  This is sorta the free juicer of tonight's entry.  Not because its bad music, but because it's one I recorded last year, didn't get around to sharing, and didn't get to re-rip this year, so it's a little more crackly than others.  Just pretend it's the crackle of a log on the fire...

Here is "Christmas Bells with the Holiday Hand Bell Choir", an 11-track album featuring, you got it, a hand bell choir.  It's interesting, it's pretty ok, and just listen to the crackle of the fireplace!   :-)

Holiday Hand Bell Choir <link removed>

That's all for now - more to come!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Two Monday Shares

I'm posting a couple shares out tonight, as we're getting close to the big day...

First up is "Old Music Box Melodies", a collection of music box songs from the A. V. Bornand Music Box collection.  Music box records always seem to be very popular and bring back a lot of memories for my readers, so I hope this does the same.

This 1955 record contains 17 tracks, some different versions of the same song. for example "Silent Night" appearing twice.  I find the music box records to be very soothing, the kind of music for a winter's evening.

Enjoy "Old Music Box Melodies":

download link

Next is a Mistletoe Records collection of 12 Christmas songs by Bobby Helms.  "Jingle Bell Rock" is here, but a different recording than the classic we're used to hearing (a seminal recording in the Christmas canon, in my opinion).  There are many standards here, but also some rarely heard songs such as "The Old Year is Gone" and "Christmas Time in My Home Town".

For your listening peasure, Bobby Helms:

download link

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Radio Shack, Baby, Radio Shack

Tonight's share takes me back to an imaginary time in the 1970s.  It's December.  I walk into the Radio Shack in Medium-Sized-Town Kansas, and there, in a stand-up display, are 3-record sets of "90 Minutes of Christmas Music", by Realistic.  Custom pressed on pure vinyl.  Organ and Chimes (the "throb and tingle of solo organ with chimes" as a matter of fact).  Choral.  Orchestral.  Three records!  Perhaps I have the $5.12 needed to buy it.  Maybe I pass it by on the way to the display of Mattel handheld electronic games - football, soccer.  Or maybe I browse the transistor radios. 

Ah, imaginary memories :-)  Seems real, though, as I remember those '70s era Radio Shacks.  And I really can imagine seeing tonight's share on display.

Here is "90 Minutes of Christmas Music", released by Realistic, from Radio Shack Corporation, a division of Tandy Corporation.  It's pretty good stuff.  Nice, appealing Christmas music. 

The artwork may be a little sketchy.  The records came in a cardboard sleeve which is showing its wear.  The records themselves, though, are in pretty good shape.

So, for your Sunday evening listening pleasure, here is 90 minutes, 36 songs, of Christmas music from Realistic.

download link

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Side B Surprise

When I was recording this record for sharing, there was an interesting little surprise on side B.  Side A was as expected, following the track list on the label and on the album cover.  Norman Roye playing some quite enjoyable Christmas standards on the organ.  Pretty good stuff. 

Then, on to Side B.

I noticed that the listing on the record label didn't match the album list, but, stranger things have happened.  Then, instead of organ music, there was a male tenor singing Christmas songs.   Hmmm, interesting.  And then came the end of the record.  A little outro by Jack Benny!  The singer, I then identified as Dennis Day.

Side B of this record is the same Side B as on the record "Dennis Day Sings Christmas for the Family", previously shared out by Ernie (link).  Dennis Day is a fine singer, and Jack Benny's bits on the record are very amusing.

Interestingly enough, on the back of the Norman Roye record is a plug for "Christmas for the Family", with the advice "If this isn't in your Christmas album collection, we'd advise getting it now...".  I guess they meant "Hey!  Half of it IS in your Christmas record collection now - you just don't know it yet".

I don't know the story of the record, whether this was a mis-pressing in the factory, or a little joke by the label, or what, but it certainly was a surprise.  A pleasant one, at that.  If anyone does know any details, please share in the comments.

So, please enjoy Side A of Norman Roye and Side B of Dennis Day, plus outro by the great Jack Benny

download link

Two from the Boston Camerata

Tonight I have two records from the Boston Camerata, "A Renaissance Christmas" and "A Medieval Christmas".

"A Renaissance Christmas" was released in 1974 and features seven tracks of renaissance music:

1  Noel!
2  The Advent
3  Mary
4  Joseph
5  The Birth of Jesus
6  The Star, The Wise Men, and the Evil King
7  The Shepherds at the Cradle

The Boston Camerata, directed by Joel Cohen, gives us a tremendous interpretation of this suite of renaissance period Christmas music.  This is some of the best I have heard in this genre.

"A Medieval Christmas" was released the following year, 1975.  It contains an 18-track program of music and readings, and is, like its predecessor, an excellent performance of period Christmas music. 

For those who enjoy this type of Christmas music, these will be excellent additions to your collection.  No Beiber, Run-over Grandmas, or Christmas Shoes here.  Just extraordinarily reverent performances of Christmas songs from years ago.

Please enjoy the Boston Camerata.  If you like what you hear, leave a comment!

"A Renaissance Christmas"  <link removed by request>

"A Medieval Christmas"  <link removed by request>

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ken Griffin for Friday Morning

Happy Friday!  Before I settle into work today, I thought I'd post out a share to start the day.  Here is a 10" record of fine tunes by Ken Griffin on the organ and chimes.  I like finding these 10" records, and can definitely see why they are the focus over at Buster's place

Here are 8 songs performed by Ken Griffin:

Joy to the World
Silent Night
Away in a Manger
The First Nowell
Adeste Fideles
O Little Town of Bethlehem
I'll Be Home for Christmas
White Christmas

Please enjoy "Christmas Carols" by Ken Griffin

download link

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hallmark - 1988 and 1989

For tonight, here are two more of the albums released by Hallmark.  First is "Joy to the World", from 1988.   This record features 11 songs by Placido Domingo, Placido Domingo Jr, and Leona Mitchell.

This is another outstanding release from Hallmark.

"Joy to the World" download link

Second is "Carols of Christmas" from 1989.  This may be the last vinyl release from Hallmark.  Vinyl was fading out about this time as CDs had taken hold.  This is the oldest one I have found.  "Carols of Christmas" features 11 songs by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Sarah Vaughan, and Samuel Ramey.  Sarah Vaughan!  Does it get any better than that?

"Carols of Christmas" download link

I may be back tonight with another share - quite a few left, and not many days until Christmas.  We'll see how the evening goes...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hallmark - 1986

Der Bingle is back from the Big Apple!  It was a spectacular trip, with the Radio City Rockette's Show, the Nutcracker Ballet, roasted chestnuts, Rockefeller Center, Christmas trees galore, and a special opportunity to meet one of my absolute favorite musicians (more on that later).  I'll post a few pictures here soon, but tonight I want to get back to sharing.  This season is zooming by, and I have quite a few shares to go, so on with the show...

Last season I shared out two records put out by Hallmark in the late 80's.  This year, I have three more.  All of these records are exceptional collections of Christmas music, as is to be expected from a company like Hallmark.  I hope you enjoy them.

Tonight's share is their 1986 contribution to the sounds of the season, titled "Listen to the Joy".  It features 12 songs, performed by Placido Domingo, The London Symphony Orchestra, The Vienna Boys Choir, and Placido Domingo Jr.  One of the songs, "The Gift of Love", was written by Placido Jr.

And so, without further ado, here is "Listen to the Joy"

download link

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Joyous Music, Lots of Joyous Music

Tonight's share is one of the best I have for you this season.  Der Bingle and Mrs. Bingle are off to NYC tomorrow for a 4-day weekend of Christmas nerdery.  On the weekend agenda is the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, NYC Ballet's "The Nutcracker", Santaland at Macy's, ice skating at Rockefeller Center, Gaga's Workshop at Barney's, roasted chestnuts on 5th Ave, and all the other Christmas extravaganza-ing we can possibly do.

So, since I'll be away from Merry and Bright for a few days, I'm sharing out a 4-record set of tremendous Christmas music.  "Joyous Music for Christmas Time" is a Reader's Digest collection from 1963 that offers up a variety of music across the four records.  The records take us through:

Carols for Chorus
Christmas Suite for Orchestra
Christmas Music for Organ and Bells
Messiah Highlights
German Christmas Carols
French Christmas Carols

I was fortunate to find this set - the records themselves are in excellent shape, played very rarely through the years.   The music is simply outstanding.

The zip file for this one is large - the 4 records, scans of the box inner and outer cover, and the record sleeves for their artwork.  So, queue it up, sit back, and let it download.  Then pour yourself a scotch and Drambuie (or your preferred beverage), and enjoy nearly 3 hours of Joyous Christmas Music.