Saturday, December 29, 2018

"The First Christmas" Cartoon

In response to reader Patrick's request for more info about "The First Christmas" cartoon, here is some more information.  The cartoon is titled "The First Christmas" and was produced for The Bible Society by "API".  I couldn't find a production date - the animation style seems consistent with the late '60s/early '70s.  In addition to the elements I mentioned earlier, like the birth of John the Baptist, it also includes the story of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35), prior to the holy family's flight into Egypt, and other additions that make it a complete story of the times.  It's really a great little cartoon.

I couldn't find a video of the cartoon itself on the internet, but fortunately the DVD set is still available.  It's a Mill Creek Productions set, available at this Amazon link and other web outlets (sometimes with different packaging). 

Here are a few screen shots from the video - the initial title and a couple of the end credits, plus the DVD cover.  The DVD set is a great treasury of Christmas cartoons, TV shows, and movies.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas Lists

I'm not a huge fan of Christmas lists anymore.  Although I respect their utility for Christmas shoppers, I like to view them more as 'guidelines' than precise lists.  After a couple Christmases long ago where I had a detailed list, and I got exactly what was on the detailed list, which had simply no element of surprise to the gift-opening extravaganza, I started moving away from them.  I do have an Amazon Wish List, used as much as a placeholder for myself than for people shopping for me, but other than that in the past few years I have not given anyone a Christmas list.  One reason is that, especially with my children, I like to see what they come up with on their own instead of just picking something off the the list.  The best presents are those that come from the spur of the moment, the "Hey!  Dad would like that!" times.

So, this year, my five children gave me:
1.  Book "Kansas City Noir", Book "Secrets of the European Micro-States", and a nice dark red casual shirt.
2.  Gift cards to two local restaurants (for me and my wife)
3.  Bottle of amazing local-distilled whiskey (Rieger) and a KC Plaza ornament
4.  Certificate for two tickets to the Evel Knievel Museum in Topeka, KS
5.  "Queer Eye" book and Christmas drink coaster

Only the European Micro-States book was on my Amazon list (and it was buried deep - #1 daughter likes to go as old as possible on my wish-list).  "Queer Eye" book was from #5 child (#3 daughter), who saw it on display and thought it would be good (it is!).  Evel Knievel Museum tickets couldn't have been more unexpected, but it will be a great visit!  All the children are great gift-givers (as is my wife).

My oldest son kicked off our family Christmas with his announcement that he has finished the first draft of a novel, and handed out copies of Chapter One.  The novel is titled "So Cold Down Along the Beach".  Can anyone tell me where the title comes from?

It was a great Christmas with the family.  Looking forward to many more.  And looking forward to that Evel Knievel museum :-)

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve.  We're (mostly) relaxing at home today - reading and coffee this morning, pictures of the decorations in our house before it was fully light, taking the middle Bingle daughter's dog outside.  I watched a couple favorite cartoons.  First "A Pink Christmas" the Pink Panther Christmas cartoon, based on the O. Henry story "The Cop and the Anthem". Then, a  wonderful and complete telling of the Christmas story called "The First Christmas".  It's on a super-compilation multi-DVD set of Christmas cartoons, movies, and TV shows.  It's the most complete telling of the Christmas story I've ever seen, as it includes the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, and Mary's visit to cousin Elizabeth before she was visited by Gabriel with his message to her.  Joseph's reaction to Mary being with child and the subsequent dream visit by Gabriel follows, and then the traditional story of the journey to Bethlehem, Jesus' birth, the magi, Herod's death squads, and the flight into Egypt. 

So now one daughter is making gingerbread cupcakes as we (slowly) prepare to leave for Mass.  Following Mass we'll join our oldest son and his wife, joined by all our children, for a Christmas Eve dinner of meatball sandwiches, then settle in to watch "A Christmas Story" (perhaps, if I have any say, preceded by "A Charlie Brown Christmas").  And then home for a Christmas Eve night, and an early morning, though not as early anymore as in years past, as the youngest Bingle girl is now 17.  (Although, she decreed a few weeks ago that, Yes, Santa will stop here!).

I hope you all have a happy, safe, and peaceful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

A Christmas Ask

As we near Christmas Day, I have an ask of you.  I know that you all are fans of Christmas music, and most likely fans of a broad swathe of music in general.  Jazz, blues, rock, pop, country, zydeco, classical, electronica, metal - music is a language that, no matter the dialect, is understood by all.

Music is powerful.  It can be a teacher, a healer, a pick-me-up, a muse, an energizer.  It can bring joy and peace.  And, for children, especially those who may be in less-than-ideal circumstances beyond their control, music can provide solace, focus, and a feeling of accomplishment that they may not be able to get elsewhere.

I am asking you to consider supporting two charity organizations, each of which was founded by dear friends of mine.  Each organization is focused on providing music and musical education to children, but in far different ways.  Please read on to learn more.

Music Across Borders

Music Across Borders was founded by my friends Nick and Lindsey Jarrett here in Kansas City.  Music Across Borders is a 501(c)(3) organization that sprang from the success of their pilot project, Strings for Uganda, where violins were provided to the children in an orphanage in Uganda, in partnership with a nearby school where the children received musical education.  Music Across Borders aims to expand beyond the single partnership of Strings for Uganda, and provide musical instruments and education to other places where the children would otherwise have very little, if any, opportunity for learning musical performance.  You can learn more about their projects, mission, and the good folks who serve on their board.  And it's easy to support Music Across Borders via a donation on their website.

Music Across Borders is a brand new charitable organization, formed just this year (2018), but I am certain that they will succeed.  I can barely imagine how the children respond to being able to learn and play a musical instrument.  

Learn more on their website and their Facebook page.
Donate to Music Across Borders

Song Rise Arts

Song Rise Arts is also a brand new nonprofit organization, created in 2018 by Kelley McRae.  Kelly is a singer-songwriter who, along with her husband Matt, sold their Brooklyn apartment back in 2011 and hit the road in their VW van, touring the US non-stop, playing house concerts, bars, and venues of all sizes - pretty much anywhere they could get a gig.  I met Kelley when I booked her for a living room concert at my place, through internet contact only.  I didn't meet Kelley until she and Matt rang our doorbell before the show.  We've been friends ever since, and I've followed their musical careers which have led them across the USA a few more times as well as a couple tours in Europe.  Kelley and Matt have settled down now in the Austin, TX area, and devoted themselves to their music,  songwriting, and teaching.

Song Rise Arts grew from Kelley's love of sharing her songwriting gifts with others, especially those who may not have the privilege of this kind of education.  Song Rise Arts' mission statement begins with "to provide low-income and underserved youth with music education, mentorship and professional performance experience."  

The wonderful programs Song Rise Arts provides are free songwriting workshops, in partnership with other Austin-area nonprofits, for LGBTQ+ youth, refugee girls and foster kids, and the Young Artist Program, where they will provide ten students with free songwriting classes, individual instruction and mentorship with professional Austin musicians.  

Donate to Song Rise Arts
Song Rise Arts Facebook page


If you've enjoyed Merry & Bright during this Christmas season, or are a long time visitor here, please consider supporting one or both of these great organizations.  I love their missions and their passion of reaching children through music.  Click their 'donate' links and send them $25, $10, $5, or whatever you can afford.  I truly appreciate your support and thank you for any gifts you can send to Song Rise Arts and Music Across Borders.

Carillon, Vibrachord, and Orchestra, Oh My!

Today's share is "Christmas Bells" by Paul Mickelson, from the Supreme Recordings label. 

Mr. Mickelson, according to the album sleeve, is an ordained minister in addition to being a musician.  Playing the symphonic carillon and the vibrachord and with orchestra accompaniment, "Christmas Bells" is packed with 25 (25!) tracks.  They are mostly classic carols leaning to the spiritual side, but there are a few that we don't often see, such as "As With Gladness Men of Old", "There's a Song in the Air", and "Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne".  Alongside "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day", "Good King Wenceslas" and the perennial favorite "O Holy Night", this is a an album sure to please.

The music is soothing and a bit atmospheric, definitely leaning toward the solemn, fit more for a quiet evening of reflection than for your annual Christmas block party.  The album was in good condition, and the rip sounds pretty decent. 

Twenty-five songs on a vinyl album means a lot of short pieces - many are under two minutes, and King Wenceslas wins the race at a mere 0:57.  The plus side is that there are so many songs to enjoy!

So, enjoy away!

download link

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Sons of Old Town Xmas Extravaganza Volume 2

Back in 2015 I featured "Sons of Old Town Collective Xmas Extravaganza Vol. I", a four song EP.  In the post I noted that the "Vol. I" implied that there would be a Vol. II sometime in the future.  Well, friends, the future is here.*   The Sons of Old Town Collective is back, this time with a 15 song collection of new and original holiday-themed music from artists hailing from Nashville, TN, Tupelo, Jackson, and Oxford, MS, and (hey!  my town!) Kansas City, MO.

What these guys do is important stuff.  From their press release:

Sons of Old Town Collective is a group of bands and artists committed to building community through music.  Since 2011 the collective has been promoting shows and releasing music with no genre limitations.  Sons of Old Town Xmas Extravaganza Volume 2 will be released on November 30, 2018 both digitally and in a limited release cassette tape. 

Proceeds from the project will go to benefit - Notes for Notes is a non-profit organization that designs, equips, and staffs after-school recording studios inside Boys & Girls Clubs offering youth the opportunity to explore, create, and record music for FREE.

So, this is a group of musicians producing great songs and donating the proceeds to create and support musical opportunities for youth.  Beautiful.

"Sons of Old Town Collective Xmas Extravaganza Vol. II" has something for everyone.  The $10 asking price on their Bandcamp site is a bargain, considering you get 15 songs and the good feeling of contributing to a great cause.

I wish that I had posted about this earlier in the season, but I know that for many readers of Merry & Bright! Christmas music season never ends, so there's never really any "too late".  And, friend Stubby excellently plugged Vol. II over at his place a few weeks back.

Check 'em out, support their cause, buy their record, enjoy their music.

Sons of Old Town Collective Facebook page
Album Bandcamp site
"Sons of Old Town Collective Xmas Extravaganza Vol. II" is available on your favorite digital music source.

* Man, I really wanted to add "and we're all eating Dippin' Dots", but I refrained.  Mostly.

Mystery Share!

Mystery share!  This one won't last long!  The link goes away on Christmas Eve - download before midnight tonight :-)

too late!

Friday, December 21, 2018

New Music: Jenna & Martin "Gingerbread"

I like Christmas music.  And I like local musicians.  And there just isn't much better than local musicians releasing Christmas songs, especially when the songs are as good as the three on Jenna & Martin's three-song release "Gingerbread".

Jenna is Jenna Rae, multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and Martin is Martin Farrell, Jr, um, multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter... you get the picture - they are a talented duo.

"Gingerbread" is a brand new release, and it's terrific.  "All I Want for Christmas (Is to Hold You)" opens the record, and the only way to put it is that it's a damned fine country Christmas song.  I've been finding myself wanting to hear this again and again this past week.  It has a really pure, into-your-soul country music sound, and Jenna's vocals are just fantastic.

"Boot Hockey" follows, an uptempo ditty that you simply must hear to appreciate - ice skating, boot hockey, being stuck in a snowbank, and a napping Santa Claus make this a fine little song - hearkens me back to rural Kansas, where I grew up.

"I Can't Stand Another Christmas" closes the 3-song record, a tale of (perhaps) Christmas overdone just a tad, as with the lyric "Your body don't need eggnog every single day".  It's a masterful country song about Christmas, upbeat music with lyrics that are a bit dark.  It compares well with the great songs on Rodney Crowell's "Christmas Everywhere" album (released in 2018).


Dang, I love this record.  Der Bingle is admittedly not the biggest fan of country music in these parts, but when it's done this well with the heart of Jenna & Martin, well I can't help but dig it!

Oh - hey!  Look at this!  It's a film Jenna & Martin made to promote "Gingerbread" - it's great!

Jenna & Martin website
"Gingerbread" Amazon link
"Gingerbread" is also available at all the usual digital platforms

Oh Snap!

This is a classic share here in the Christmas music sharing blogiverse.  Ernie shared it first, way back in 2005.  CaptOT then linked to Ernie in a column about it in 2006.  Well, it's been 13 years, man, and this album deserves another turn in the spotlight.

I speak, of course, of "Carols of Christmas" by the Snap-On Tools Male Chorus. 

Directed by Mrs. Marjorie Morrow, the Snap-On Tools Male Chorus (for this recording) was comprised of employees of the Snap-On Tools Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin.  For a bunch of tool guys, they are quite good!  They sing with energy and spirit, giving us twelve classic Christmas carols, including one medley that is an amazing 10:52 in length. 

So, I'm on the level and wouldn't throw a wrench in the works, it's hammer time!  Please enjoy the Snap-On Male Chorus :-)

download link

<sigh> As I'm writing this and listening to the rip, it has a few of those pervasive audio hiccups that have plagued me this year due to a stylus change.  Well, enjoy it now and look forward to a re-master next season.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

What's More Christmassy Than...

Radio City Music Hall at Christmas time?

One of my favorite places on Earth is New York City at Christmas time, especially the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular.  Mrs. Bingle and I have been fortunate enough to see the show twice in NYC, and also once here in KC with the touring company.  It's wonderful, beautiful, and amazing.  It's hard to believe that Radio City Music Hall was in a struggle to survive and nearly closed up shop in the late 1970's.  Now, it's a special Christmas treat to see the Rockettes, the live Nativity, and all the rest.

Tonight's share is "Merry Christmas New York from the Radio City Music Hall", a 1972 release featuring highlights from the Christmas program.  The album opens with the Nativity, a medley of spiritual carols.  Segments from "The Nutcracker" and more carol medleys grace the album.  "Jingle Bells/Rhythms of the ROCKETTES" is a side 2 track, featuring the tap dancing feet of the world famous dance troupe.  What a wonderful album full of Christmas nostalgia!

Included in the zip file are the images from the fold-out section of the album cover, with pictures from the program, and liner notes by Jack Mitchell.

One of my favorites this year!

download link

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Spotlight on New Music

I get a lot of requests via e-mail to feature new songs, videos, EPs, etc, and honestly I can't keep up with them, so I'm very grateful for the other blogs that do such a great job highlighting the new releases each year.  But there are a few that I'd like to draw your attention to, so today's post will list out several that I think deserve your attention.  (Whoa - this turned out to be a long post...)

Jane Sheldon - "One for Mrs. Claus"

One of my fave new singles this year - "One for Mrs. Claus" by Jane Sheldon.  Light, bouncy, a little bit country, and surely Christmassy.

Soundcloud link

Youtube video (featuring Teri Hatcher):

Sofia Talvik - "Poem at Year's End"

What would Christmas be without a new song by the lovely Sofia Talvik?  I hope we never know...  Here for your listening pleasure (and free download) is "Poem at Year's End" from Miss Sofia.

Sofia Talvik link

Phil and the Osophers - "Another Christmas with Phil and the Osophers"

Here's a 4-song EP by Phil and the Osophers - all original, all very original. Catchy, a little quirky perhaps, a little snappy, more than a little tromboney.  Love it!

Soundcloud link

Phil and the Osophers have quite a catalog of Christmas tunes - check out their Youtube playlist - marvelous!  Youtube link

Darren Fiorino "Early December"  Bandcamp link

Darren and family have been long-time readers of Merry & Bright, and Darren is now starting a career in music as a singer/songwriter.  Check out his single "Early December" b/w "Auld Lang Syne" on Bandcamp

Jack Mosbacher "Christmas in California" EP

In throwback crooner style, Jack Mosbacher serves up an EP of four classic songs, solo piano versions of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas", and adding light jazzy instrumentals for "It's Beginning to Look a Lot LIke CHristmas" and "White Christmas".  Jack does the classics well!

"Christmas in California" Soundcloud link
Linnea Ellis - "Warmest Winter"

Solo Debut from new artist Linnea Ellis - "Warmest Winter".  Mmmm.... this is dreamy....

Listen on Soundcloud

Linnea Ellis on Facebook

Promo video:

"Stars" - Various Artists

The folks at wyaiwia (Where You Are Is Where It's At) bring this 9-song album of original new seasonal songs.

"Stars" Bandcamp link

Featured video from the album "Christmas Tree (Burn Burn Burn)" by Catenary Wires


Randi Fay "Joy Whispered"

Here's the video for "Joy Whispered", by new artist Randi Fay.  I'd call it orchestral adult-contemporary pop Christmas.  I'd also call it a quite beautiful new song!  Available to stream on Spotify, 

All the Randi Fay links:


Stephen Winston "Winter Breath Warms the Heart"  

Colorado native Stephen Winston has released a piano-driven new single "Winter Breath Warms the Heart" - check it out here on Bandcamp.  A song for lovers of Winter (like me), it stirs up all those good feelings of a cold snowy night.

Josie Dunn - "Cold in December"


Dan Berk - "Hanging Like the Mistletoe"

Long Island based singer Dan Berk, proudly having a million monthly listeners on Spotify, brings us "Hanging Like the Mistletoe", produced by Michael Camargo (guitarist for Michael Buble).  Nice!

Green Monkey Records - three new albums

The good folks at Green Monkey Records have three new releases for 2018.  I haven't had time to preview them all <sad face>, but Green Monkey consistently produces some very fine Christmas music.  Definitely worth your time.

"(I'm a) Lonely Little Christmas Tree" - Tom Dyer & the True Olympians - Bandcamp link
"A Green Monkey Christmas For Martians Up On Mars" - Bandcamp link
"Tom & Kat's Excellent Christmas Adventure" - Bandcamp link


And that's it!  I hope you find some chestnuts in all this new music.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Harp and Holly

Well hi there - it's been a few days, especially smack dab in the heart of the Christmas season.  All is well in these parts, Der Bingle has just been kinda swamped with stuff, including a tri-evening of Christmas outings here in Kansas City - Crown Center/Union Station, Winterfest at Worlds of Fun, and the Christmas Festival with the Kansas City Symphony.  But, I'm back, and hope to get several posts out over the next few days and get caught up a bit.

Tonight I have another share for you - Luis Bordon "A New Christmas Spirit - Holiday for Harp and Holly".  Luis Bordon was a quite popular Paraguayan harpist/songwriter who began his career in the 1950's and performed for the rest of his life.

"A New Christmas Spirit" will be a wonderful addition to your downloaded Christmas collection.  It features 13 songs, some familiar, some perhaps not.  One in particular is new to me, and I'm sorta hoping someone with more background in South American culture can comment and give some info about it.  The song is "En Un Burrito Orejon".  Apparently, according to Google Translate, it is literally about a burrito.  Some of the translated lyrics are:

Do not cry anymore, my life
Christmas is coming,
San José and Maria will bring
a burrito orejón
nougat loaded,
San Jose and Maria will come
and on a donkey
they will pass through here.

Do not cry anymore, my little girl
I'm kneading the bread,
marzipan with honey,
and the faithful humita,
Warm is in the pan.

They will come in a burrito
Bethlehem road.
Beloved all beloved,
beloved of the child God.
Around here they will come
and they will kiss you
when Christmas arrives

Now, Mr. Bordon's version is instrumental only, but "En Un Burrito Orejon" must be a popular Christmas song in South American culture. 

This is a nice album, well performed, snappy and happy.  I will say that this is one where there are a few little audio glitches, so I am planning to re-master it next year and re-share, with better audio.  But, I wanted to share it out this year anyway, audio hiccups and all.

And, as you can see from the image, the cover was in pretty rough shape.  A risk of the vintage vinyl trade, and a consequence of a blogger with no meaningful Photoshop skills.  So, disclaimers aside, please enjoy Luis Bordon, harpist, and "A New Christmas Spirit - Holiday for Harp and Holly"

download link

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Buon Natale!

Tonight's share is a very nice album from the 4 Corners of the World label (Four Corners Records), "Buon Natale Christmas in Italy" featuring songs performed by Sergio Franchi, The Radar Quartet, Achille Togliani and the Comet Quartet, and others.  This is a splendid album to add some international flavor to your Christmas music this season (for more, head over to friend Ernie's place where he's practically on a around-the-world musical voyage).  

The songs here are bright and performed with a holiday flair, Italian style.  "Jingle Bells" is a gondola-load of fun, and "Frosty L'omini De Neve" is a hoot.  You'll find other familiar melodies, and some that will be new to you (unless you're a native of Italy, of course).   I'll leave most of the exploration to you as you play through the album i.e. no spoilers.  I think you'll enjoy it more that way.  (Although, "Bianco Natale" you can probably guess...)  :-)

So, please enjoy "Buon Natale Christmas in Italy"

Monday, December 10, 2018

Christmas Album of the Year?

With all the great new-music Christmas blogs out there, it's hard for a new Christmas release to slip by, especially a near great, nay, a great one.  When you suddenly discover one, though, it's akin to being whomped in the face with a herring by the Grand Champion of the Fish-Slapping Dance, or as they say in Finland "Tanssikuningas peitteli kasvot silakalla".  So, imagine my utter shock at discovering "Having a Marfy Xmas!!!" by Mrs. Helen Marf on the tympani and her enclave of musicians.  Amazing doesn't begin to describe this masterpiece of seasonal songs.

Mrs. Helen Marf, legendary tympani player for Quilt Records in the 1960's, was approached by Quilt Records president Clancy Snarrup in 1966 about making a Christmas record, as a followup to her previous tympanic masterpieces released on the Quilt label.  Soon after, and following three strenuous days of recording, "Having a Marfy Xmas!!!" was born.  Where has this album been all these years?  Finally, it is now available for Christmas music lovers everywhere.

It's fudging amazing, I'll tell you, fudging amazing.  It's tympani-led music to soothe the babes and quiet the barnyard beasts.  Or, as the French say:

Cette musique tympanique apaisera tous
les bébés en pleurs et fera taire les
animaux de la ferme.

The album opener, "Deck the Halls" is an exercise in precision and jazzy interpretation.  Drummer Golly Awkward keeps the beat as if he is a human manifestation of a Swiss watch, unerring in exactitude and the demands of Mrs. Helen Marf's arrangement.   Hempal Goozer III plays a cautious Hammond Organ, and Hubert Grackfellow an intensly restrained tubular bells.  Heaven!

"We Wish You a Marfy Christmas" introduces 1) Mrs, Helen Marf's joviality with the play-on-words song title, and 2) Larry Trimpletskzyk-Klamph on bongos, along with Maria Losa shakin' the sleigh bells.  You'll be craving a heaping serving of figgy pudding before the song ends!

Oh my - track 3 - "The First Noel", performed on solo tympani by Mrs. Helen Marf.  Only through the rhythmic explorations of unaccompanied tympani can the new depths of meaning be found in this classic olde Christmas carol, or as the Portuguese say "O solo do tympani acrescenta profundidade e significado à música natalina."  The solo ends far too soon for this Christmas-music lover.

On "Silent Night", guest vibraphonist Tina "The Ghost" Freena joins the cadre, and Hammond organist Hempal Goozer III is featured, but following Mr. Goozer's turn in the spotlight Mrs. Marf returns, driving the classic melody with reckless abandon and wild yet tamed tympani rolls, commanding attention yet paying respectful homage to Franz Gruber, or as the Germans say "eine Hommage an Franz Gruber".

"God Rest Ye, Marfy Gentlemen" - could this be an uncredited arrangement by the great Henry Mancini?  Whaaaat?

The true highlight of the album is "Jingle Bells".  Mrs. Helen Marf unleashed her inner tympanic Kraken in this performance.  You think, yes you do, that she is sticking strictly to the rhythm as written, when Whoa!  there's an eighth note pause and a slight syncopation.  OMG!  There's an extra tympani beat with what is probably a staccato, probably not an ultra-staccato, mallet.  The strokes and rolls drive the song, once again accompanied by Mr. Awkward and Ms. Losa.  Mrs. Helen Marf plays with untold virtuosity and confidence.  And, right at the 3:00 minute mark of the song, it sounds like Mrs. Marf is late on a beat.  But, to me, this is just another example of her sheer brilliance.  It sounds like a late beat, striking not on the quarter or the eighth or the sixteenth, but in that nether region that lies outside the rhythm.  Oh, it's purposeful, my friends.  It COMMANDS your attention, lest it has wandered.  It brings you back for the denoument of "Jingle Bells".  It's a journey to jazz and back, all in a single note, or as the Bulgarians say "Falshivata propusnata belezhka e sŭshtnostta na muzikalnata nirvana".

Now, I'm not one to make musical recommendations, not being an actual musician and all that, but I've listened to my fair share of Christmas music (and probably yours too). And, y'know, if Mrs. Helen Marf decides to get the band back together for one more Christmas album, or even a single, I think she should give Professor Z.Z. d'Bingle a call. Known as the Theremin Jedi of the Plains, Prof. d'Bingle's theremin mastery might give the next Marf tune that little extra push for Grammy to take notice.

Now for the good news - you too can share in the works of Mrs. Helen Marf. An unreleased version of "Bring a Torch, Jeanette" is on Soundcloud - here's the link: Bring a Torch.

And, you too can own your own copy of "Having a Marfy Xmas!!!" You can buy a download on Bandcamp here: Marfy Xmas!!! You can even buy copies for your friends, which I think you should do.

And hey - here's the official promo video for "Having a Marfy Xmas!!!"  Youtube link  You know you have to go watch.

It's reported that Kansas City musician Jason Beers has some connection to this album....

The album is real, the review is for fun. Thanks Franny and Jason...

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Birchwood Pops Orchestra "Silent Night"

Tonight's share comes from a clean-out of my wife's Second Grade classroom that she undertook last year. After having been in the same classroom for well over twenty years, it was time for a purge, and she brought home a few records that had made their way, somehow, into the room.

"Silent Night", by the Birchwood Pops Orchestra on the Pickwick label, was a very pleasant surprise.  It has a 1980 date on the album, but to me it sounds of an earlier time.  It's a very pleasant background Christmas music album, well performed, arranged to be very true to the essence of the classic carols, but still original enough to be interesting and ear catching. 

It's a short album - 9 tracks and about 24 minutes.  I like the song selection, with a few A-listers - "Silent Night", "White Christmas", "The Christmas Songs - but it also includes several still well-known but not as frequently recorded songs, such as "Toyland", "The Coventry Carol", and "The Bells of St. Mary's".

This is a really enjoyable album, arranged to really showcase the brass instruments.  I think you'll like it.  Oh, and please forgive the "Henton" written in black marker in the over - that was the telltale mark of belonging in my wife's classroom :-) 

Enjoy "Silent Night" by the Birchwood Pops Orchestra

download link

Thursday, December 6, 2018

1940 Christmas Poems

At a local used bookstore this summer, where I had thankfully done some inventory research before going and created a list of books I wanted to see, because man, the bookstore was jam-packed and I needed to jsut turn over the list to the proprietor to have any shot at finding them, I picked up this little gem of a book, titled "1940 Christmas Poems".  It was published locally in Kansas City as a result of a poetry contest co-sponsored by the Kansas City Star newspaper and WDAF, a local radio station in 1940, now also a television station.  I've included the first few pages explaining the origins of the book, and also a few of the poems.

What is striking to me is the artwork on the endpapers.  In the upper left is a military wife, home for Christmas, by the tree with presents abound, missing her husband.  In the lower right, her husband, fighting in the war, praying to be able to someday return to his home.  In the middle, a stark image of warplanes.  It's a very moving illustration.  And, although it's hard to see in the picture, the cover is embossed with the same picture, sans planes.  One could place a paper on the cover and shade with a pencil to reproduce the picture.  Love it.

The book contains a collection of the poems submitted for the contest.  KC readers - I didn't recognize any of the names of the poets.  I wouldn't expect to know anyone from 1940, but I thought perhaps that there would be a recognizable local name, maybe a Kemper, a Rockhill, a Bodine, or another family name from local media, but there are none that I could identify.

Here are the introductory sections and a few sample poems.  If I can safely scan a few more poems I may add them in later.  Enjoy this piece of Christmas history from Kansas City.

I also found a vintage copy of "Miracle on 34th St." at the bookstore that day.  'Twas a good day of book shopping...

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

What's the name of the reindeer leading Santa's sleigh?

No, What is pulling second.
I'm not asking you who's pulling second. 
Who is leading the sleigh.
That's what I'm trying to find out!  Who has the red nose?

Ok - enough of that feeble attempt to add a Christmas spin to the classic Abbott & Costello routine.  Why, you may ask? (He's in Center... no, no, no...)  Well, tonight's share is a Christmas radio broadcast from Bud & Lou, performed on December 12, 1946.  Side A of the album, titled "Christmas Stocking" from the Holiday label, contains the radio broadcast, and side B has, of course, "Who's On First" along with "Costello's Farm".

A few words about "Who's On First".  It's freakin' genius comedy.  You probably knew that already, but the genius really comes out after you've heard many different versions of it.  I have several A&C records, all with some version of "Who's On First", and it's just slightly different each time.  Of course the basics and the structure and flow are the same, but there are little, teeny idiosyncrasies, mainly led by Lou, because you never really know where exactly he's going next, that give each version it's own identity.  And frankly, listening to Bud keep up without ever losing a beat is amazing.  Go hit the internet and listen to several different versions and you'll see what I mean.

Another thing about Who's On First is that no one else can really do it.  I have this album by The Links (actually it's my daughters but she won't take it)(I call them the Will Ferrell Trio)(We thought it was the Kinks - boy were we surprised)(It's signed - it's harder to find The Links records unsigned than signed ones) and it has a version of Who's On First.  It's well-rehearsed, well-paced, performed with energy, delivered clearly, and it's awful.  It doesn't have a trace of Lou's manic energy and the spontaneity of A&C, even after they'd done the bit a million times.  Compare and contrast, my students.

One last thing - I had (he's passed now) a "step"-brother, raised by but never adopted by my father, whose name was Bud Abbott.  Seriously.  Eugene was his given name, but he was known as Bud.  Bud was 40 years older than me, and we never lived in the same home, and having Bud Abbott as a brother confused the heck out of me as a child once I discovered Abbott & Costello.

So, anyhoo - there's a lot of extraneous information packed in here tonight, so I'll stop and let you enjoy "Christmas Stocking" by Abbott & Costello.  Final word - there are a few scratches/skips that I could not repair during the transfer process.  My apologies, but that's part of the vinyl game....

Monday, December 3, 2018

"Peace" by Ruth Acuff

With so many other Christmas music sites that do new music so much better than I do (Stubby's, Christmas Underground, Christmas-a-Go-GoMistletunes to name a few), once the season is in full swing I don't do too many reviews of the new stuff, unless I can add in an artist interview or something that can complement what these other great blogs serve.  Still, every now and then something really special comes along that I want to share with my readers.

"Peace" by Ruth Acuff is one of those very special songs.  Ruth Acuff is a (near) local artist for me, residing in Columbia, MO.  She is a professional harpist and singer/songwriter, and has previously fronted the psychedelic rock band The Royal Furs and the alternative folk rock band Rutherford.  Stepping aside from her rock personas, Ruth has produced a single that is completely beautiful, in voice, instrumental performance, and message.

"Peace" is an inspiration in times that may be troubling.  Every year there are many for whom the holiday season is not one of joy, but of sorrow.  "Peace" reaches out to them with, and also to those who find our nation's and world's politics discouraging, or worse. Ruth admittedly cites political tensions as an inspiration for this song, and her words are moving:

When the world seems a hardened place,
you’re doing everything you can to love the human race. 
Peace will be your saving grace.
When you have no other choice, when your heart cannot rejoice.
Peace, a warmth in your soul.
You, yourself celestial.

Ruth's vocals are sublimely sweet, like a fairy princess in the moonlight, and her harp playing gives the song an otherworldly quality.  Although "Peace" is not overtly a Christmas song, it is perfect for the season where we celebrate with joy Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.

I hope that Ruth will make her way from Columbia toward the West for a Kansas City performance.  She is a special talent with an extraordinary song for this season.

Ruth Acuff website
Ruth Acuff on Facebook

"Peace" single on Bandcamp and Amazon, also available on your favorite digital music sources

Sunday, December 2, 2018

"Seasons Greetings" from the United States Army Band

My first album share this season is the wonderful "Seasons Greetings" by the United States Army Band.  The album features several different combinations of musicians from the US Army Band, including the US Army Chorus, the Chamber Orchestra, and the Brass and Woodwind Ensembles, all under the direction of Leader and Commander Colonel Eugene W. Allen.  There are fifteen tracks on the album, including a leading track "A Christmas Medley" consisting of four well known carols.

There is an interesting note on the back cover "Not For Sale/Public Service".  So perhaps the album was distributed only to members of our armed forces?  If a reader has some insight, please comment and share.

So, without further ado and with respect for all of our servicepersons past and present, please enjoy this fine album, "Seasons Greetings" from the United States Army Band.

download link

Sharing Season

You may consider the previously shared single a bonus preview of sharing season, and the forthcoming share the official kickoff.  This announcement is a bit of a potential disclaimer for this year's shares.  A stylus change may have contributed to a few ripping idiosyncrasies this year.  I've tried to catch them and re-record where possible, but since it's December, if there are any hiccups, I won't have time to re-record.  If you find any, please comment and I'll try to re-share next season.  Otherwise, caveat emptor (I don't think there is a Latin equivalent of "downloader").  My apologies for any aberrations in the quality this season.