Happy December, Chanticleer friends and family! I’m stealing the blog for the day.
Christmas is perhaps our busiest and most rewarding season of the year. In fact, it’s only December 1st, and we’re already one week into our Christmas tour.
This year, we thought we’d try a little something extra to share our holiday cheer. We’ve decided to share with you some of our favorite Christmas music. Over the course of the next few weeks, every two days, each of the members of Chanticleer will be posting their version of a Christmas playlist, containing music that makes us happy throughout the season.
They can be played via Spotify or Apple Music or on YouTube. The links are below; use whichever platform you prefer.
With the copious amounts of material available, how do you make a Christmas playlist? Do you go with traditional songs and recordings that everyone has heard? Do you go rogue and find the quirkiest, craziest recordings around (there are many!)? Do you shoot for a balance? Should it all be one genre? I expect these mixes will be a wide selection of songs from classical to modern pop tunes, and each of our lists will contain two of that member’s favorite Chanticleer Christmas recordings.
We hope this gives you something fun to dig into and helps get you in the mood for the season. Let us know what you think, and if you happen to make it to one of our Christmas shows, please stop by and say hi!!
Have a great holiday season!
-Brian Hinman (Tenor)
A few thoughts about the tracks I chose:
- Let’s kick it off with something new, fun, and funky. Vulfpeck is a funk band from Germany, and here they are singing about Christmas in L.A. Haha. I have nothing else to say. [Edit: I have no idea why I thought they were from Germany. They're from Ann Arbor, MI. No idea. Embarrassing.]
- Little Stevie Wonder. I love this guy, and in my opinion, almost no playlist is complete without some Stevie.
- Harry Connick, Jr.’s first Christmas album might top my list of favorite Christmas albums. It has a great balance of classics and original tunes written by Connick that should be classics, like this title track from the album, “When My Heart Finds Christmas.”
- This is a Chanticleer recording from before my time. I fell in love with this track years before I was born, and I consider it a privilege to now be able to sing this stunningly gorgeous Jonathan Rathbone arrangement with these gentlemen.
- Odetta was a powerful activist and produced equally powerful and influential bluesy folk music. In 1960, she released an album of Christmas Spirituals. I never asked Joe Jennings about this, but I think it’s no coincidence that most of the songs in the Christmas spiritual medleys that he wrote for us also appear on this album.
- Was Lou Rawls a gospel singer, a crooner, a jazz singer, a soul singer? Does it matter? He did all of them with that smooth, warm, soulful voice. Here he gives Christmas a little swagger.
- “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” might be my favorite Christmas song, and this arrangement by Bill Finegan (an arranger in the Glenn Miller Orchestra in the ‘30s and ’40s) is one of my all-time favorite things I’ve done with Chanticleer.
- Everybody knows…this Christmas gem. Does everybody know that Mel Tormé wrote it? Co-written with songwriter Bob Wells, this is a perfect recording of Melo beautifully crooning through his own beloved tune.
- Jan Sandström is a Swedish composer who has turned this well-known Praetorius chorale into something stark and ethereal. I have heard and sung this numerous times, and it still transports me.
- I love Take 6. I have loved them since I first heard them in high school. They are a pivotal group for anyone interested in a cappella singing. This track is from their first Christmas recording released in 1991.
- That Harry Connick, Jr. album I mentioned earlier? He wrote an original, gospel-flavored tune for it, called “I Pray On Christmas.” I like Connick’s recording of it, but here, one of the greatest voices in soul music, Solomon Burke, joined one of the greatest old gospel quartets, the Blind Boys of Alabama for a truly soulful cover of the song.
- Is this a Christmas song? Well, it’s a “holiday” tune, and it will close my mix. Joe Williams is one of my all-time favorite jazz singers. He got his start singing with Count Basie, and as he got older, his voice just grew smoother and more nuanced. This is his take on another one of my favorites.