Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Christmas Music Pick for this year: Mannheim Steamroller

And a happy Feast of Stephen to everybody.

Speaking of St. Stephen's Day, we now have a new great Christmas CD: This one, Mannheim Steamroller's first, apparently. And it has the world's most fun rendition of "Good King Wenceslaus." Mind you, it doesn't seem to have much to do with the Duke of Bavaria who forgave his murderous twin brother with his dying breath. More kickin' than that. But we have to have fun sometimes, especially at Christmas. The CD was my husband's request for a Christmas present. The last version of "God Rest you Merry" on the CD is also exceptional, as is "Silent Night." The audio clips on Amazon don't do it justice, so I didn't know if I was going to like it. One of the best things about it is its variety. I like that Olde Renaissance Faire style (cum authentic instruments) occasionally, but in moderation. So before you have time to get tired of it, the Steamroller moves back to a straight 1980's blasting synthesizer sound that makes you want to dance. I'm now dying with curiosity to know what Chip Davis means in the liner notes by referring to his "toys" which include instruments (are they?) that I've never heard of, like "dry ice" and "dots and lines." (The official editorial reviewer on Amazon is rather snooty: "Depending on your point of view, Christmas is either a quaint sonic time capsule extracted from the mid-1980s or a timeless holiday classic." We're voting "timeless Christmas classic" around here. I don't recall buying any of that guy's music recently, so perhaps he should defer to Chip Davis, who seems to know what a Christmas classic sounds like.)

I also heartily recommend this book for your young kids, grandkids, nephews and nieces, etc. It looks at first blush like just another baby-Jesus-in-the-hay picture book for children, but it's actually something much better than that. Paul Maier is a real historian, and the emphasis of the book is on the historicity of the Christmas story. As you can imagine, this makes it much appreciated in the McGrew household. The paintings are beautiful, too, with the only newborn-looking Baby Jesus I've ever seen. The book was a present from my mom and dad.

Finally, here's the collect for St. Stephen's Day from the BCP:

Grant, O Lord, that, in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may stedfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by th example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those who suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.


William Luse said...

Here you go, two versions of the same piece. And just for kicks, one we used to sing in choir.

Lydia McGrew said...

Phew! I was afraid that guy wasn't going to get back from the war (WWI?) alive in that first video. But it looks like he makes it. I'm _guessing_ the video is put together by someone else with the M.H. music. Very effective. And now I probably know what Chip Davis looks like, if he's the guy at the drums in the concert clips.

That arrangement of "Fum, Fum, Fum" is awfully hard with the repeated key changes up and up and all a capella. If your choir did that one, I'm most impressed.

William Luse said...

We did it with organ and orchestral accompaniment, but it's hard anyway. The Robert Shaw arrangement. Fun, though.