Christmas in Music

Christmas and its songs will be more poignant than ever this year. In unprecedented times we cling onto traditions as a boat to its anchor, aware of the storms, trying to ride them out, knowing the anchor will hold. Life will prevail and calm will return.

As we prepare for a very different Christmas I am fortunate that my family and friends are all safe. We, like so many, will celebrate within our smaller existing group and look forward to a larger family gathering in the summer instead.

For now, the house begins to glow with the warmth of the light of the season’s decorations. The star adorns the window and is a beacon of hope, I trust.

Music ties us to other times in our lives when we first heard the tune, the emotional connections an inherent part of us. Carols and Christmas songs are even more so and they are a major feature this time of year. I would like to share eight of my favourites Christmas songs with you.

Christmas during my early childhood was celebrated every year at my grandparent’s house in Sweden. It was a joyful bustling affair with up to thirty family members on Christmas Eve (this being the time for family celebrations to start in the afternoon with presents later in the early evening). Although it seemed to take forever for everyone to eat before Jultomten (Father Christmas) arrived there were lots of games, songs and dances to entertain the children.

One of my favourite songs involved everyone holding hands, dancing around the Christmas Tree and house (this was literally possible inside!) whilst singing ‘Nu är det jul igen’ /‘Now it’s Christmas again’. The ensuing chaos was hysterical and would involve us falling to the floor in fits of giggles!

The next song suited my twelve-year-old angst-ridden self perfectly. At school, we were learning about the First World War and I was deeply moved about life in the trenches for the soldiers. ‘Stop the Cavalry’ starts in the voice of one soldier before the song swiftly changes to the Cold War era of the 1980s with references to nuclear fallout, a very real and credible threat.

My single of Stop the Cavalry

I played ‘Stop the Cavalry’ by Jona Lewis incessantly the December of its release until my brother for the sake of his and the family’s sanity took the single into hiding for a month!

Since living in England in the late 1970s we always have a quiet moment of reflection during the festivities and early on Christmas Eve afternoon the TV will be on to listen to the opening solo tones of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ held at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge.

This is part of ‘A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols’ and was introduced in 1918 to bring a more imaginative approach to worship. It was first broadcast in 1928 and is now watched by millions of people around the world.

Christmas is also a time is one of joy and fun, so what could be better than a bop to ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ by Boney M. Anytime this comes on the radio I have to down the pen/wooden spoon/iron/book and dance around, singing away. Do join in!

I discovered my next favourite Christmas song three years ago whilst researching a blog post one winter. It immediately became popular with many followers and I’m sure you’ll recognise it. Click here to see the post and read the lyrics translated into English.

The theme of ‘Tänd ett ljus’ /‘Light a Candle’ is that Christmas will light a candle as a symbol of hope for a better world and it was recorded by Swedish band Triad in 1987. The outro includes Christmas and New Year’s greetings in different languages. The finger-snapping is hypnotising and the a cappella mesmerising. One can’t help but try and ‘dom dom dom’ along!

For many years it was not Christmas unless the Elvis Presley movies were showing every morning! We’d rush down, half asleep and enjoy a relaxing and musical viewing! It seemed to be the unwritten rule that these were part and parcel of the season!

Of course Elvis’s ‘Blue Christmas’ is as popular as ever and although about unrequited love it captures the sadder side of being apart at this time of year.

Christmas of 1984 is memorable for the amazing work of Bob Geldof (lyrics) and Midge Ure (Music) to create ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ Bob Geldof put together the supergroup Band Aid for the event.

As a teenager it was astonishing and heartwarming to see how so many came together to record the song in aid of famine relief in Ethiopia. Band Aid featured the biggest British and Irish musical acts at the time and the song was recorded in just one day.
Furthermore, the record became the fastest selling single in UK chart history, selling a million copies in the first week alone and passing three million sales on the last day of 1984. A record held until 1997.

My final song returns to the message of Christmas reflecting on the birth of Jesus as humanity’s redemption.

‘O helga natt’ /‘O Holy Night’ (also known as “Cantique de Noël”) is composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847 to the French poem “Minuit, chrétiens” (Midnight, Christians) by poet Placide Cappeau.

I’ve heard the song many times but it’s one that has particularly enthralled me in recent years. I’m sure you’ll agree that Tommy Körberg’s performance is outstanding and magnificent.

I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to and learning about my eclectic mix of Christmas songs and that they’ve put you in a holiday mood.

I wonder which are the carols or songs you always turn to during the winter holidays! Please feel free to share in the comments!

Wishing you all a peaceful, joyful celebration!

A CITY’S FESTIVE TRANSFORMATION

I’ve been wary of anything that describes itself as a Winter Wonderland after my first foray to such a themed event over ten years ago. Then my family and I ended up wandering around a few sad small shacks of glitter in a mud pit of fields!

When friends suggested I join them at the Winter Wonderland in Nottingham recently I hesitated, and said I’d think about it. In other words I needed to check it out online first!

Yeah! No mud or fields in sight! Rather the website promised a glittering array of lights, bars, and over 70 stalls! The largest such event in the Midlands.

On the day of our arrival, we headed to centre of town and just as dusk fell around four I was struck first by the colourful Christmas tree lights.

As we approached the main square the cacophony of voices hit us, one moment the quiet city centre streets, then magically transported to a fairy-tale Christmas market. The crowd was deep and slow-moving, not that I minded in the least as I spun around, scanning the festivities.

There was a large ice-rink, a helter-skelter, carousel and toboggan ride! Plus much more! Food stalls served dishes from across Europe and of course, there were the bars galore, including an ice-bar!

Photo from https://www.visit-nottinghamshire.co.uk/

The market stalls offered a variety of goods including jewellery, ornaments, art and fashion. As it was a cold night I bought myself a hat. The first bobble hat I’ve had since a child and it felt snug and warm on my head! My friends laughed at my acquisition – good-naturedly, I hope!

Although we were sorely tempted by the drinks on offer we had another destination in mind, ‘The Alchemist’ cocktail bar. How could we resist their tantalising sales pitch:

“We’re masters in the dark arts of molecular mixology and demons in the kitchen. Our mixologists create every cocktail with an obsessive eye for detail, presented in vessels orchestrated to add a devilish dash of theatre, they bedazzle, bewitch and set the scene for everything we do.”

I was enraptured by the artistry of the staff, magicians of wondrous concoction, mine a smoking mixture which could not be rested on the table until the vapours subsided. Only then was I allowed to pour it into the specially prepared glass! I had a SMOKEY NUMBER 2 which consisted of a heady selection of ‘Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum, Winter Sugars, Apple, Smoke, Cinnamon. Hard To Put Down’. I can asssure you I only had the one drink, here I’m holding my friend’s flask as well.

I loved every wicked and fiery sip! Let’s just say there wasn’t a second one!

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating this Thursday! Happy First Advent to those who mark the day on Sunday. Above all else wishing everyone a joyful and peaceful time before Christmas!

Note: Unless stated all photos are ©Annika Perry.

CHRISTMAS DREAMS

As many of us are looking forward to the festive season I wanted to share a Christmas song that’s been with me these past few days. As you travel to see loved ones, as you prepare the food for special lunches and dinners, as you wrap those last minute presents, enjoy this piano cover of Fairytale of New York.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and heartfelt thanks for all your support & comments this year – it’s been a privilege and joy to get to know you!

MERRY CHRISTMAS / GOD JUL


A HUGE thank you to you all here on WP – it’s been another wonderful year of close friendships, learning, inspiring, creating. 

It’s an honour to be part of a community that encourages each other with our various projects, supports one another through our lives, shares the joys as well as the travails of life. 



Personally, a heartfelt thank you to everyone for your fantastic and enthusiastic response to my short story collection which I released in December. It’s been a crazy hectic time and it is with regret I haven’t been able to visit as many of you as I would have liked … thank you for your patience and I look forward to catching up with you all in the beginning of the year.

Until then I wish you all a magical Christmas filled with warmth, love, peace and joy! 


Lucia visits St. Paul’s Cathedral

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Very little stops time in its tracks. Takes one back to our roots of dark and light.

As the vast and magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral was cast into complete darkness, a hush descended over the crowd. The usual shuffles, sniffles, and coughs were awed into silence by the depth of dark and then the distant tones of Sankta Lucia could be heard. From behind us, she appeared and with her maids, they slowly made their way down the three aisles. All around us the glow of candles lit up their faces, the singing clearer, louder as they passed up to the front of the cathedral.

As photography was strictly forbidden (ignored by a few) this video from 2011 shows the entrance of Lucia at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

An overwhelming sense of purity and joy filled the building, the singing, still only lit with candles, wondrous and at times spine-tinglingly glorious. Too beautiful, tender, moving for words.

For once everyone was fully focussed, caught in the moment, no distractions. The wholeness was complete and utter.

As the bitter chill of outside penetrated the cathedral (it was minus three centigrade outside) people huddled closer to their loved ones.

This was the final song of the evening before Lucia and her maids walked back down the aisle…listen with some volume and wait until the moment the choir joins in. A shudder of emotion shook us all…many moved to tears. The pettiness of the world ceased to exist as the song carried us to new levels.

Lucia is celebrated on the 13th December in Sweden and I wrote about the festival here two years ago. For the first time this year, my family and I went to see the celebration at St. Paul’s Cathedral – a most unique and special occasion.

The Church of Sweden organises a series of Sankta Lucia services across London during December and the Ulrika Eleanora Church Choir takes part in them all. We were lucky enough to have internationally-renowned Swedish Soprano, Miah Ovenden, singing this year. Also, we enjoyed a Christmas Service with guest speakers including The Ambassador of Sweden who was joined in the congregation by numerous other Ambassadors, including those of Finland, which celebrated its 100 years of independence last week. I’d read about this on Khaya’s lovely blog and you can read ten things she loves about her second home here

I know we will be back next year to Lucia at St. Paul’s Cathedral…hopefully some of you might be able to join us.

A THOUSAND LIGHTS

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For me, Christmas begins with lights. Forget the Christmas cards on display in July – it’s Summer! Their inane presence on the shop shelves in the middle of a heatwave makes me despair. Piped carol music in the shopping centre during October has me shaking my head – it’s just too early and Halloween has yet to be celebrated.

It’s the lights that cause the flutter of excitement in the pit of my stomach as I eagerly clamber to the loft in search of the Christmas lights. Will the previous year’s due care and diligence reap the ultimate reward – will they work?

Brought back down to the warmth of the house I gently unwrap the swaddled star, cocooned for 11 months in the blanket in which my newborn son was brought home from the hospital. The light bulb, submerged in cotton wool, emerges intact. Will it shine, though? By now anxiety holds sway as the lamps around the room are turned off and in the wintry dusk, I press the switch with trepidation. Rays of bright light shimmer across the blackness, outside into the dark! I feel aglow and calm; engulfed by Christmas peace and contentment.

Lights abound in our house during this holiday, not just the star but also Christmas window candles and the tree lights sparkling in a multitude of colours. Every evening candles are lit, their warm and tender living lustre slowing time in its path, uniting us in a time-honoured tradition. Light bringing its aura of ethereal harmony into our lives.

I have so many favourite Christmas songs but this Swedish one seems particularly appropriate – all about light; lighting those candles in our homes, bringing light and hope into the world.  Sentiments that epitomises the needs of the world today.

For me, Christmas is about being with family and friends and I feel I have made some wonderful friends here on WP.  Thank you so much for your continued interest, support, comments and kindness over the past year, it is a delight and privilege to know you all.

As you listen to the song and read the translation I want to wish each and everyone of you a very special Christmas / Holiday, filled with peace and joy. May light fill your homes and hearts this Christmas.

Finally, like so many, I will be taking a blogging break during the festive season and look forward to catching up with you in the New Year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

GOD JUL & GOTT NYTT ÅR!

 

Thousands Christmas lights are lit

all around the world

Thousands, thousands also shine

in the dark blue sky

***

And over towns and land tonight

Christmas happy message spreads

that born is Jesus Christ, our Lord

The blessed prince of light.

***

Dear Star over Bethlehem

let your gentle light

Shine with hope and peace

into every home, every house

***

In every heart, poor and dark

please send a gentle ray,

A ray of love from God

In blessed Christmas time.

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A Season Song To Lift Your Heart

Every year at Christmas there will be one song which becomes my favourite for the season and one I will play non-stop. 

One year as young my passion for ‘Pipes of Peace’  by Paul McCartney nearly drove my brother mad. As yet again it spun on my turntable, volume at its loudest, he stormed into my room, lifted the arm from the record and said sweetly, ‘Enough.’ I realised then he might be right.  

‘Mary’s Boy Child’ by Boney M was a hit with us both and one to which  we would bop around the living room. 

Last year, on a Christmas CD of older hits I fell for the warm ‘olde’ tones of ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’

This year I have returned to my Swedish roots. The song ‘Tänd Ett Ljus’ is sung in acappella and never fails to make my spirits soar it every time I hear it. The sheer clarity of the voices brings tears to my eyes and the words touch my soul. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 

Do you have a season favourite tune? Is it the same each year or does it change? 

Here is a translation of the song:

‘Light a candle, let it burn,

never let hope disappear.

It is dark now but light will come.

Light a candle for all Earth’s children.

I saw a Star fall, it was night and all slept.

I think I wished then you were near.

For a minute it burnt, then disappeared.

Was it only me who saw?

On the radio they sang about peace on Earth,

I wanted to believe these worn words.

Light a candle ……

I got a card from Wyndham, didn’t know where it was.

I saw on the map that you are 

on the other side of the planet.

But it is the same sky, the same ocean,

the same star I saw,

Fell for all our dreams, fell so we never forget.

Light a candle…..’