Tuesday, December 24, 2013

An Enchanted End to the Sharing Season

Christmas Eve!  The clock is ticking toward our traditional Christmas holiday family festivities.  Dinner at Mom's.  Church.  Home for the evening, watching "A Christmas Story".  Then to bed, awaiting Christmas morning.  We will have a White Christmas here at the Bingle's in Kansas City.  A snowstorm on Saturday night followed by a cold front has left the snow for us to enjoy on Christmas Day.

For you, my readers, I have what I believe to be the most interesting, certainly the most eclectic, share of the season, "Enchanted Carols" from the Saydisc label in the UK.  "Enchanted Carols" features songs performed on Street Piano, Roller Barrel Organ, Orpheus Disc Piano, Handbell Choir, Music Box, a Brass Band, and the Bells of St. Mary Redcliffe in Bristol.  What a collection!

There are traditional favorites such as "Good King Wenceslas", "Jingle Bells", and "O Come All Ye Faithful".  There are also songs that we don't hear as often, like "Down in Yon Forest", "A Virgin Most Pure", and "See Amidst the Winter Snow" (as part of a carol medley).

Just for fun, I included a scan of the inserts in the album cover.  They aren't directly related to the record, but I thought you might enjoy them.

So, with "Enchanted Carols", I conclude another season of sharing Christmas Music with you.  As I've prepared the shares this year, I've found that many more Christmas recordings of the past are now available in digital format.  That's both good and bad.  Good because they have been remastered with excellent sound quality.  Bad because it limits what I can share.  Still, I hope that you have all enjoyed the music this year.

Merry Christmas!

"Enchanted Carols" download link

Monday, December 23, 2013

Truly a Joyous Record

According to the album notes on the back cover, "The Pop Christmas Melodies" is just that - truly a joyous Christmas record.

I was quite amused by the album notes on this record.  While I praised the writer of the album info on the last share from George Wright, I can't heap quite as many kudos for this one.  Although, for sheer amusement, this isn't bad. 

"In America, Christmas is the big holiday..."

"Carols are sung at Christmas season as they are joyous and happy."

"The date, December 25th, was probably picked as it was closest to January 6th (Epiphany)."

Oh well - the writer didn't have Google to help way back when.  So, Rondo Record Corporation album note writer, I wish you many Season's Greetings!

Oh, about the record...  "The Pop Christmas Melodies" featuring the Popular Players' Orchestra, is a record of pretty good Christmas music.  Pretty much standard stuff, arranged and performed quite competently.  I particularly like the inclusion of "Little Jack Frost", as it's the one that isn't in the upper tier of the Christmas music canon, although we all know it well.

I dig the artwork on the cover too.  As my teenagers say, very retro.

The rips here have some noise.  The record was in rough shape, so there is some fuzz here and there that I couldn't remove.  But, it cleaned up enough to be a nice addition to the season.

Please enjoy "The Pop Christmas Melodies"

download link

Sunday, December 22, 2013

What Would Christmas Be...

... without a Christmas Organ record?

Well, fear not, fret little, and rejoice heartily!  Here today I have for you "Merry Christmas" by George Wright playing a selection of Christmas songs on the Wurlitzer Pipe Organ and the New York Paramount Theatre.

The notes on the back of the album cover are quite descriptive, setting the mood, describing the mighty Wurlitzer organ, informing us about the percussion instruments heard in accompaniment, and even providing technical details about the recording.  Kudos to the copy writer for Hi Fidelity Recordings.

This is really good album of Christmas music.  To me, it stands in the upper tier of albums of organ music, primarily because of the song selections.  There are some old standards like "Jingle Bells", "White Christmas", "Deck the Halls" and others.  But there are also some others that won't be commonly found, or, in the case of "Holly", Mr. Wright's own composition, anywhere else.  "The Little Red Monkey" is a piece of Christmas mischief, perhaps even better suited on a Halloween album.  The album closes with "Christmas Fantasy", a lengthy arrangement featuring themes from many Christmas songs expertly arranged and blended, a fitting finale to a really nice record.

For your pre-Christmas Sunday, here is "Merry Christmas" by George Wright.

download link

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Jillaine Returns!

Our friends Stubby and Ken Kessler first let all of us Christmas Music lovers know tht Jillaine's third Christmas album, "Jazzy Christmas To You III" had become available.  Many thanks to them for this exciting announcement.  I just want to do my part to promote Jillaine, our favorite jazz singer and performer-extraordinaire of Christmas music.

Jillaine's third Christmas album in three years arrived in the mail here at the Bingle house a couple days ago - huzzah!  With Christmas looming, I don't know if I'll get  full review written before the big day, but it's safe to say that this record will be as amazing as the first two.  What a singer, what an interpreter of Christmas songs.

Jillaine artist site

Amazon link  (Jillaine says pay no attention to the 'out of stock' message - order it and it will be delivered)


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas in Germany

It's getting close to Christmas Day, and I have a few more records to share out for you.  The number of albums is less this year than in seasons past, but I hope you have enjoyed them all.

Tonight's share is "Am Weihnachtsbaum die Lichter brennen".  It's a German Christmas record featuring Erika Koth and Kenneth Spencer.  A German record, made in Germany, with all German album cover text.  If any of you readers speak German and can help us with some context, that would be great. 


Beautiful cover, eh?

Even though I don't speak German, I can certainly appreciate good Christmas music.  Some of the songs are well known, such as "Stille Nacht", "O Tannenbaum", and "Still, still, still".   Even old favorite "Adeste fidelis" appears.

There are a couple things you should know about the rip.  First, the performances are pretty much continuous, with breaks that are difficult to discern.  So, I decided to keep the flow intact, and have provided these as two tracks, Side 1 and Side 2.  Second, the rip is a bit rough in spots, so there is a little more noise than usual.  Still, it's quite enjoyable music for the season.

Please enjoy "Am Weihnachtsbaum die Lichter brennen"

download link

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Annual Music Box Share

One thing I've discovered since hitting the thrift shops in search of Christmas records is that there are a lot of music box recordings.  I think this will be the 3rd year in a row I've shared out an album of Christmas Music Box songs.  Hmmm.... I've added a couple of the German Christmas Carousels (like in "Christmas Vacation", only smaller) to my Christmas decorations this year.  Maybe I need to be on the lookout for an honest-to-goodness Christmas Music Box.

This year's share is "Christmas Music Box Favorites" from the Paul Eakins Gay Nineties Village collection, from (when the album was made) Sikeston, Missouri.  The Gay Nineties is, or was, according to the album a "mecca of fun".  I can't speak for the Village itself, but the music on this record is a whole lotta fun.

These music boxes seem to produce more complex tunes than my previous shares.  There is a lot going on here musically - runs, rhythmic counters to the melodies, and quite complex song structures.  There is also the noise that the music boxes produce while playing - some knocks and whirrs - but I think that adds to the nostalgia and authenticity of the experience.

One of these days maybe I'll produce a 'best of' Music Box collection.  But not this year :-)

For tonight, I bring you "Christmas Music Box Favorites".

download link

Saturday, December 14, 2013

From Sopranos to Tenor

Tonight's share is one of those mysterious records about which I can find no information, either about the record or the artist.  Randall Veazey's "Songs of Christmas" was a thrift store find, and everything I know about it is on the album cover.  Google provides very little information about Mr. Veazey.  He may be, or have been, the Minister of Music at Riverchase Baptist Church, but I can't tell for sure.  He may have set three concert appearances in the Christmas season of 1974, and may have been a singer in the Billy Graham Crusade, but that's all unconfirmed.

What I can tell you is that he is a talented tenor, with a strong voice well suited to the collection of Christmas songs he recorded on "Songs of Christmas".  Mr. Veazey chose to record from the spiritual canon of songs for his album, and his voice is a natural fit.  I enjoyed this record very much.

Guess what else?  The record is signed!  If you look at the front cover scan, you'll see the signature in blue ink in the snowbank, with a "Best Wishes" inscription.  Comparing the signature to the album-printed version on the back cover, it looks similar.

So, Mr. Veazey the Mysterious Tenor, you have produced a fine Christmas record (circa 1973?).  It will be enjoyed by the readers of Merry and Bright here in 2013 Anno Domini.

download link

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Baroque Christmas

Hello readers.  You probably thought I'd abandoned the blog.  Here at the height of the season, no new shares in six days.  Well, fear not.  Der Bingle has been working, making candy, and doing some shopping.  And now I'm back with another excellent Christmas record for you.

"A Baroque Christmas" by the Amor Artis Chorale is an excellent record for fans of this style of Christmas music.  Johannes Somary conducts the chorale though seven works by Praetorius, Haydn, Hammerschmidt, and others.  It's a really beautiful recording, quite spiritual and moving.

As always, the front and back cover images included in the share are scanned images (actually four scans each and then stitched together).  The other images of the inner cover and page insert are digital pictures from my camera, as I could not scan them without damaging the cover.  I hope that they are a nice complement to the cover and music. 

Please enjoy "A Baroque Christmas"

download link

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Sopranos Christmas

No, not Tony Soprano and his family sitting around the fireplace singing Christmas carols.  My last share was a record from exquisite soprano Elly Ameling, so I thought I'd follow up with another amazing soprano, Joan Sutherland.

Joan Sutherland is one of the grande dames of opera, Australian born to Scottish parents.  She has an amazing voice and a storied career.  Her Christmas songs occasionally appear on commercial collections, but fortunately for us, this record, "Joy of Christmas" is not available in CD or MP3 form.

The selections include both religious-themed songs, such as "Ave Maria", "O Divine Redeemer", and "O Holy Night", as well as secular carols such as "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and "Deck the Hall".  All in all, this is a very enjoyable collection from Ms. Sutherland.


download link

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Artist Interview: The Bowmans

The Bowmans, twin sisters Sarah and Claire Bowman, have produced one of the finest Christmas albums of the year, “Make Sure The Snow Falls” (also featuring sister Emily Bowman on violin). And if producing and releasing a new album wasn’t enough, Claire Bowman wrote and illustrated a Christmas book “Mert the Anxious Evergreen”. The Bowmans have toured and performed with artists such as The Avett Brothers and Rasputina, and have developed a strong, dedicated fan base. The first time you listen to “Make Sure The Snow Falls” you will understand why. Sarah and Claire very graciously agreed to answer a few questions for the readers of Merry and Bright. I wish to thank them for their time, and for giving us such personal insights into The Bowmans as multi-talented artists, and to their down-to-the-wire Kickstarter campaign. I am extremely pleased to bring you Q&A with The Bowmans.


Merry & Bright: Welcome to Merry and Bright! Thank you for taking some time to answer a few questions. Your new CD “Make Sure the Snow Falls” is an album of traditional and original Christmas songs. What led you to record a Christmas record?

Sarah Bowman: I knew you'd ask! This is our first Christmas album, and it was always evident that someday we'd do one. Both of my sisters and I always made music together at Christmas, which remains as the happiest tradition of all. Claire and I always took the songs we knew and made them into something our own by adding movement to the melodies and harmonies. Emily plays the violin on the album. Together again at last!

Merry & Bright: The musicality – vocal harmonies, song arrangements, performances on instruments – is complete, precise yet smooth, and just beautiful. Tell us a little about the Bowman sisters’ development as musicians.

Sarah Bowman: We helped each other grow. It was always natural for us to express ourselves this way. Emily used to turn the lights off and we'd sit in the dark and have instrumental conversations. Claire and I used to challenge ourselves by singing 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' a minor second apart from one another- and similar 'games' that I later found out in college were excellent ear training methods. For us it was just our way of goofing around. Dad said the first time he heard us sing in harmony we were in the back seat of the old Volvo. We were just 3 years old.

Merry & Bright: The title song “Make Sure the Snow Falls”, written by Sarah, is not only a seasonal song but also a powerful message of environmental responsibility. What is the inspiration behind this song?

Sarah Bowman: The first line is literal. I live in the Alps. Easter was colder than Christmas last year. I am so connected to the weather, and the seasons. You'll find this in many of my songs- so, like many things, when Christmas doesn't *feel* like Christmas, it makes me want to take action more than ever.

Merry & Bright: So, tell us about the last five minutes of your Kickstarter campaign.

Claire Bowman: Well, we'd been busy touring and recording throughout the campaign, which started to look like a bad decision when the last week rolled around, because we hadn't been able to reach out directly to as many folks as we probably needed. On the morning of the last day, I'd almost given up hope. But then, I though, heck - there's no harm in just emailing every last person I know to see if they want to chip in to help us make this happen. And so I got a pitcher of water, some snacks, and got to work. I didn't get up for hours. The last half hour, our mixing engineer called with questions and I barely said three words to him. He must have thought I was the rudest person on earth. But I wouldn't stop emailing while I told him how to reach Sarah, who had stepped away to get some air. Then I started getting phone calls from folks having trouble figuring out how to increase their pledges or trying to make pledges from their phones, so I was fielding calls while still trying to get emails out. It was chaotic. I wasn't watching the numbers. I was just emailing people and talking on the phone. Then, just as I was trying to walk someone through a transaction on Kickstarter, I noticed the time. Ten seconds left. We were like $1800 away from our $30,000 goal. I politely ended the conversation and laid down on the floor with my hands over my eyes. I was devastated. So much work and so close, but I thought it was impossible that we'd bridge that $1800 gap in ten seconds. Then, Sarah's husband said matter-of-factly, "you reached your goal."

Sarah and I were like, "what?" And he repeated, "You reached your goal. You did it." Like - as if we had no reason to be freaking out. I had to see it to believe it. And it was true! Somebody had their finger on the button or something - one substantial pledge had come through along with 30 other pledges in the last seconds of the campaign. It was unbelievable. I started getting texts and FB messages from all the backers who'd been watching the nail-biting end of the campaign, refreshing their screens to see the numbers change, calling folks to get them to pledge. I had no idea so many people were out there rooting for us. Sarah and I just gripped each other and howled. Within seconds, I'd gone from giving up on the floor to jumping up and down with my sister in celebration. It was incredible! I'll never forget that moment.

Merry & Bright: Who are The Bowmans’ primary influences as musicians?

Sarah Bowman: Mom and Dad's music collection combined? You have Dad on the one side with early polyphonic choral music, medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music... and Mom with Pete Seeger and Joni Mitchell and the protest folk singer-songwriters of the 60s, and Gospel music and the Beatles on the other side. Later in life you have The Avett Brothers, who were like us when we met many moons ago in NY- brothers working hard to make it happen. That's why I'm so happy Scott Avett plays on this record, he is a true inspiration. Lastly, add in everything Jim Henson ever did, and you have The Bowmans.

Merry & Bright: What’s next for The Bowmans?

Sarah Bowman: We have enough songs to record another full length album that is not particularly seasonal, and we want to make a series out of the Christmas project. We just need to finance it, and this summer's Kickstarter campaign was enough excitement for a short while. We would like our fan base to grow before we crowd fund again.

Merry & Bright: By the way, I love your artwork on “Make Sure the Snow Falls”, as well as your previous releases “The Bowmans” and “Live at PowerPlay Studios”. It’s so colorful and energetic. And, your art gives life to your book “Mert: The Anxious Evergreen”, which was also part of your Kickstarter campaign. Tell us about Mert, and how he came to be.

Claire Bowman: My twin sister, acting on a hunch, challenged me to write it as part of our joint Kickstarter campaign (for this book and our forthcoming Christmas album). She was already deep into songwriting for the album. (It took her over two years.)

I spent a lot of my life dreaming of being a children's book author and illustrator. Though challenging, writing Mert's story felt so natural that I think I discovered a call that I “could not hear” previously – yet it seemed like it was there all along. (This call is like the music in the book, except that is a call that resounds on more of a collective level.)

I did not come to writing via a traditional path. I've always had too many interests to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life. I've always loved art/painting/drawing and singing and losing myself in my imaginary world. It turns out that my inability to relinquish my stuffed animals and my tendency to greet and thank inanimate objects is paying off.

Merry & Bright: Artist, musician, writer – you must stay very busy! Thank you for spending time with Merry and Bright!

Claire Bowman: Thanks so much for taking an interest in The Bowmans and Mert! Happy Holidays!


“Mert the Anxious Evergreen” on Amazon

The Bowmans website

“Make Sure The Snow Falls” on Amazon

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

CD Review: "Make Sure The Snow Falls" by The Bowmans

The Bowmans, twin sisters Sarah and Claire Bowman, with their new album “Make Sure The Snow Falls”, have given us not only one of the best Christmas releases this year, but, in Der Bingle’s humble opinion, one of the most perfect Christmas musical experiences ever.  Seriously, my friends.  Sarah and Claire, and sister Emily as well, accompanying on violin, have given us a beautiful, original, and completely rapturous record for this season.

The very opening measures of the first song, “Is He Going to Ask Me” set the tone of the album, showing the sisters’ tight harmonies that prevail throughout the record.  Sarah and Claire sing together flawlessly, harmonizing magically on every song.  Sarah is also a multi-instrumentalist, playing cello, piano, fiddle, Wurlitzer, guitar, and bells.  Along with Claire on percussion and Emily on violin, the acoustic musical arrangements are mesmerizing, perfectly blending with the sisters’ vocals.

“Make Sure the Snow Falls” features six original songs, and six arrangements of traditional Christmas tunes.  “Is He Going to Ask Me” is a Christmas love song deepy rooted in both the spirit of the season and a couple’s love, and the anticipation of a quite big moment. 

The title song, “Make Sure The Snow Falls”, delivers a powerful seasonal message of stewardship with nature and environmental responsibility.  With this song, Sarah tells of “a new way to be naughty these days”, with long-lasting effects on the world we live in.

“First Verses”, also written by Sarah, takes me back to my childhood days where, as the song says, we knew and sang the first verses of many Christmas songs, in church and in school.   It’s a nostalgic journey back 40-odd years to where my love for Christmas music began.

The traditional songs include “Good King Wenceslas”, What Child Is This”, and “We Three Kings”.  “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” is terrific, with an additional verse delivering Santa a personal wish list from Sarah, Claire, and Emily.  What rhymes with “cello”?  You’ll be pleasantly surprised (no, not “jello”). 

The album closes with an a capella version of “Silent Night”, which the Bowmans perform absolutely perfectly.  Their harmony gives this reverent song a mystical spirituality, and is one of the best performances of this song I’ve ever heard.

“Make Sure The Snow Falls” has soared to one of my favorite Christmas records.  It’s up there with Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Elvis, and Percy Faith.  It’s going to be one that I listen to many times each Christmas season.   I just can’t say enough about this amazing record. 

The Bowmans used a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the record and a Christmas book, “Mert, the Anxious Evergreen”, written and illustrated by Claire Bowman.  The story is terrific, and Claire’s artwork is colorful, joyous, and just wonderful!  A painting by Claire also graces the cover of the CD sleeve.  These twin sisters have artistic talent aplenty.  Their Kickstarter campaign had a very dramatic finish.  The funds had not come through yet into the last day of the campaign.  About an hour before it ended, I (as a backer), checked in, and it was getting pretty close.  The minutes were winding down.  As I was watching, the campaign ended, and the sisters were still short by a hundred dollars or less.  What a letdown.  Then, a few seconds later, Kickstarter refreshed, and their goal was attained!  Whew – talk about a close call!  The world of Christmas music is a better place with the funding and release of the CD and book.  And if the message of “Make Sure the Snow Falls” resonates, then the entire world will be a better place for all of us.

Listen to “Make Sure The Snow Falls” by The Bowmans on Spotify, then rush over to buy it from their website or from Amazon.  Pick up a copy or two of “Mert the Anxious Evergreen” while you’re there.  Give it as a gift to the children in your family.  And, keep a copy for yourself J

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Elly Ameling Christmas

Tonight's share is from renowned Dutch soprano Elly Ameling.  The album is titled "Christmas with Elly Ameling", and features eight songs performed by Ms. Ameling.  The back cover of the album states:

"Elly Ameling sings a collection of Christmas songs - famous and not so famous - from Germany (Strauss, Reger, Cornelius), Austria (Wolf), Holland (Diespenbrock), and Spain (Nin)."

Now, I don't speak German, Dutch, or Spanish, so Ms. Elling may be singing about Baby Jesus or driving to Belgium to pick up a Trappist Ale for all I know.  But she sounds good.  Her soprano voice soars alongside the reserved accompaniment, allowing the listener to focus on her performance.

There is a lot of information on the web about Elly Ameling, and she has many albums available on iTunes.  But, fortunately for us, not this one.

I am pleased to share "Christmas with Elly Ameling".

download link

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cheesy Content Winner!

And the winner of the Richard Cheese "Cocktails with Santa" CD is....

Ralph from Chandler, AZ!

<applause, applause, applause, whoop, whoop>

Congratulations Ralph!

I'll be in touch with you via e-mail to get your mailing address.

Thanks to all who entered, including one from Jakarta, Indonesia.  How about that - a worldwide contest!