While Bryan's astute observation that jolly ol' Saint Nick seems to command the secular as well as religious airwaves this time of year is far from false, I'm here to argue that that's not all bad. Secular and religious songs or hymns may inspire pious thoughts, but such songs may also have the potential to inspire at least kind or warm emotions in anyone. Many of these songs, especially early hymns, are exceptionally well crafted pieces of music. Personally, I divide my favorite Christmas songs into two areas: choral and jazz.
First, there is choral. You know, many of these hymns were composed in European churches in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, or earlier. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", for example, was composed in 1840 by Felix Mendelssohn. In the toil of those desperate times, gorgeous, rich, warm songs coming from the church doors may have provided some temporary relief. As Everett in O Brother Where Art Thou would say, "songs of salvation to salve the soul". There are numerous other examples. Admittedly, choral music is not something I listen to on a daily basis - but the holiday season provides the motivation.
Then, there is jazz. I think jazz lends tremendously well to Christmas music. Tons of these songs have been remade in a smooth or snazzy swing style. Its hard to argue with that. I, of course, would recommend Elle Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, or Dianne Reeves. Verve Records has a Very Best of Christmas Jazz that I would love to check out.
So, there you have it. I'm more than happy to pop the Kooks or Cale/Clapton (which is pretty freakin good) out of the car stereo and drive to the sounds of New Orleans Christmas or even John Denver Christmas.
Have a Happy Holiday, folks. Your Christmas wish of a webcast may yet come true.