Friday, July 23, 2021

Mid-year Update (not really Christmas in July)

 Well hello everyone.  It's July, and many of my compadres out there are doing Christmas in July things - sharing music, doing podcasts, celebrating the mid-season.  I'm not a Christmas in July guy, personally.  I have a Christmas tree up in my work-from-home-office space, formerly known as "downstairs", but it's just because I haven't bothered to take it down.  It is a vintage aluminum tree, so I kinda dig having it here, with various ornaments hanging from the branches.

So, this is really just a check-in post for my faithful readers.  

I last left you with my traditional Christmas Eve post, though in 2020 Christmas Eve was far from traditional.  I said that we would be doing things differently. That turned out to be quite an understatement, as we had a COVID Christmas here in the Bingle household.  One daughter was positive before Christmas, so she was quarantined in her room through the holidays.  My wife tested positive on the 26th, and another daughter on the 28th.  I and my son both tested negative on the 28th, and about three hours later started feeling some symptoms.  I retested a couple days later, and on Jan 3 got my positive result.  We didn't bother re-testing my son, as he had the symptoms so we presumed positive.  So all 5 of us living here were positive.

The good news is that we all had mild cases and recovered pretty quickly.  All of us had different symptoms to some degree.  Loss of smell is weird, I'll tell you.  That came late in the episode.  I picked up a very strong pumpkin spice candle and took a super, deep whiff.  Nuthin.  At all.  That lasted about 3 days for me before it started coming back (again tested with the candle).  My wife, 7 months later, still has some smell sensitivity issues, but weirdly it's things she'd rather not smell anyway, like she can't smell a wet, dirty dog.  Silver lining?

So we are all well, and we are all vaccinated.  I hope that all of you readers are also well and are taking the most effective steps you can to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.  

Plans for the blog this year are still in the 'thinking about' stage.  I'm sure that it will be a variety of Christmassy things, as usual.  Hopefully some shares.  Hopefully an interview or two.  Most likely some featured new music.  One good friend/amazing recording artist is releasing a new Christmas album this year, so I will be covering it for sure.  Beyond that, who knows?  These things tend to reveal themselves when the time is right.

That's it for now.  I am hopeful that Christmas will be near normal this year.  We adapted in 2020, with Christmas via Zoom, which in hindsight was actually kind of fun, but with the Ghost of Christmas COVID there in the room with us on Christmas day, our joy-meter was not at 100%.  Again, in hindsight, we learned new ways to celebrate the holiday, and how to be 'together' across multiple households and rooms.

Grace, Peace, and Love, everyone.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve 2020

It's Christmas Eve, and this year will be quite different for us, as it is for nearly everyone.  Although our Christmas Eve traditions have changed a bit from time to time over the years, we have always enjoyed Christmas Eve services at church, and a family dinner, either preceding or following church.  Then a quiet evening at home to wind down the day in anticipation of Christmas day.  

Today we will be staying home, and the children who don't live here will just do a drop-by to exchange Christmas presents and take their already-filled stockings home with them.  This evening we will join the church service via livestream, then order Chinese food, then Zoom with the absent children for some Charlie Brown Christmas Bingo, and then settle in for that quiet evening, watching "A Christmas Story" for the zillionth time, enjoying it just as much as ever.

On Christmas morning we will open stockings via Zoom (three children are here in our home, two aren't), and probably do some gift opening.  We may save some for New Year's Day in hopes that we are able to get together.  In the immediate family we have one hospital pharmacist (who got her first COVID vaccine dose this morning), two autism agency workers, and three teachers.  Lots of contact with lots of people in the outside world.  So we are doing our part to minimize risk.  And, we look at it as just extending the Christmas season for a few more days :-)

Until my Mom moved to Tennessee three years ago, we spent Christmas Eve with her in her apartment. Being part of the normal Christmas hoopla was a bit much for her, so Christmas Eve with her was the right thing to do and was part of our tradition for several years.  Mom passed away earlier this year, at the grand age of 100, having seen 101 Christmases.  Fortunately, she was not a victim of COVID, passing due to just living a life of over 100 years.  So we will not be able to call and wish her Merry Christmas this year, but she is surely still part of our celebration.

So, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  Please stay safe, and please help to keep others safe as we go into 2021.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Christmas with Gisele

Today's share is one that I consider a classic of vinyl Christmas music collecting - "Christmas with Gisele".  Canadian born Gisele MacKenzie delivers an album full of Christmas classics sung in both English and French.  The French twist to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" adds a jolt of freshness to the song, and the French medley of "In This Stable", "The Angels in Our Fields", and "The March of the Kings" is a highlight of the twelve songs on the album.

I especially appreciated "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers", "The Night Before Christmas Song", a unique version of the classic story, and the rarely-recorded "Too Fat for the Chimney".

Gisele has a warm voice, well complemented by the creative arrangements.  "Christmas with Gisele" will be a welcome addition to your collection.

Enjoy!  "Christmas with Gisele" download link

Monday, December 21, 2020

New Music: "Amid the Cold" by Evan Mazunik

"Amid the Cold" by Denver-based pianist Evan Mazunik brings Merry & Bright's new music posts to a conclusion for this season.  Released on October 30, 2020, "Amid the Cold" is a gorgeous collection of music.  

Sixteen tracks of some familiar melodies arranged by the talented Mr. Mazunik interspersed with original compositions are delivered on "Amid the Cold".  The songs' heart is Evan's piano, and the soul is the inclusion of electronica, spoken word, and even sound samples from outer space.  The result is a dreamy, ethereal journey into Christmas music.  Christmas music indeed, wrapped in celebrations of the solstice.  This a refreshing, jazzy, surreal, and wholly unique album.  

And it's purely coincidental that I am publishing this on December 21, 2020 when we are witnessing The Great Conjunction in the night sky as Jupiter and Saturn align to form a modern-day Christmas Star, and Evan's album includes a song titled "The Great Conjunction".

If you are looking for something different, joyful, and moving, please do yourself a favor and listen to "Amid the Cold".  I think you'll like what you hear.  This is another superb example of Christmas music that fills a void in my collection. 

"Amid the Cold" on Bandcamp

Evan Mazunik website

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Christmas in San Francisco

Tonight's share is one of my favorites this year.  It's "Christmas in San Francisco", a live recording from the Embarcadero Center's Living Arts Program.  The album includes members of many performing arts groups across the bay area, including the San Francisco Symphony, Oakland Symphony, San Jose Symphony, San Francisco Opera, and many more.

The album includes music "from 1382 to 1974", giving us a wealth of songs from across the history of Christmas music.  Magnificently performed, this is sure to be a favorite of yours as much as it has become one of mine.

This was one of my best finds on my Orlando excursion with Ernie this past March, in a fine little record shop somewhere in central Florida.

Please enjoy "Christmas in San Francisco"  download link

Friday, December 18, 2020

Lotsa New Music for 2020

Every year I receive a Santa's sack-full of new music from the musicians and promoters out there in the big ol' world.  Time enough to cover it all thoroughly just isn't available, but I'd like to at least give them a quick shout-out.  So, here's a rundown of some of the new Christmas music in 2020, and by the way, many of these are in my Spotify Playlist (right over there <-- in the left panel).

Please scroll through, check out the amazing music these artists have shared, watch a few videos, sip on some eggnog, and enjoy!  And if you like what you hear, a little googling will find the artist and all their info.  

Loop Line - "The Small Hours" - Pretty terrific new tune from geographically challenged indie-rock band Loop Line, complementing their previous Christmas catalog (which are all well worth your time and attention).

The Powers - "If We Don't Have Any Snow" - new music from The Powers, a husband and wife led Americana/Alt Country band from Idaho.  They also have a splendid version of "O Come O Come Emmanuel".  Great sound from The Powers!

"If We Don't Have Snow" - stream on Spotify

"O Come O Come Emmanuel" - stream on Spotify

Wolf Blitzer (the band) - "Bliitzmas"

 The Merry & Bright Award for album title of the year goes to Wolf Blitzer (the band) with "Bliitzmas", a followup to their 2016 holiday EP "Blitzmas".  Their band self-description brought a smile to my face too: "We are Wolf Blitzer, a band from MA that is now pretty defunct but still gets back together for Christmas to make some music."  Love it man, love it.

And I'm really digging their music too.  "Bliitzmas" is a 4-song EP, all originals.

Wolf Blitzer (the band) Bandcamp

Wolf Blitzer (the band) Facebook

Monkton - "Monkton Christmas Volume One"

An eight song album of "Christmas music in unique jazz oriented original arrangements" from Monkton.  Available on Bandcamp.

Surf School Dropouts - "The Man in Red"

Christmas EP from the indie-pop band from Denmark Surf School Dropouts.  Get it on Bandcamp.

Nina Baumer - "O Christmas Tree"

Nina Baumer website

Nina Baumer Facebook

Katie Garibaldi - "Auld Lang Syne"

San Fran gal Katie Garibaldi returns with a new single "Auld Lang Syne"

Nadia Vaeh - "Christmas Cards"

Kira Rizavi - "Tiny Dancers (Can't Wait for Christmas)"

Stream "Tiny Dancers (Can't Wait for Christmas) on Spotify

Leah Belle Faser - "I Wonder What You Got for Me"

Ice Island - "The Little Drummer Boy"

Available on Bandcamp or Stream it here on Spotify

Jack Blackman and the Beautiful Wreck - "I Wish It Was Summer (at Christmas Time)"

Maxine Linehan  - "This Time of Year"

Stream it on Spotify

Maggie Szabo - "Come Celebrate Christmas"

Karen Hitchcock and Deron Reynolds - "Bells are Ringing (Hallelujah)"

By the way, and I'm sure that most of you know this, there are other blogs that cover all the new music, including my friends at:

Christmas Undergound



Hip Christmas

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Trappist Monks of Gethsemani

 Tonight's share is "A Child is Born", a recording of selections from the Advent-Christmas Liturgy sung by the Trappist Monks of the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani.  The Abbey was founded in 1847 near Bardstown, Kentucky and is still active today, with around 40 monks in residence. 

The album "A Child is Born" was recorded in 1955 and released in 1956.  It includes extensive liner notes and a transcription of the Advent-Christmas liturgy.  It was a Columbia Masterworks album, catalog ML 5310. 

I love albums of this sort for their historical value and deeply spiritual presence in the performances.  It's an experience with an aspect of Christmas that we don't get to include in our typical celebrations.

Liner notes insert page 2

Now, the bad news.  😟  The album has some unrecoverable scratches, and I was not able to rip all of the tracks.  What I could get transferred is presented in three segments:  Side 1 tracks 2-13, Side 2 tracks 1-2, and Side 2 tracks 4-5.  The rest were just not repairable.  If you like the segments that you hear, I'm sure there are other sources of the album somewhere.  I felt that it was a notable enough record to go ahead with a partial share, along with the usual album artwork and the four pages from the inner sleeve.

And as you can see, the front cover has some damage as well.

So, I hope you enjoy selections from "A Child is Born" by the Trappist Monks of Gethsemani.

download link