One of the things I love most about the holiday season is that year after year we get to revisit the music that has become such a part of our culture and our traditions. Music plays an important part of the rituals that families celebrate each year and it is important that we pass these traditions (and love of music) on to our children.
This month’s column is dedicated to the music of the season. I grew up in a Christian home so the music that is now on our family’s playlist is mostly based in that tradition. But I do have a few CDs to recommend that I enjoy from a musical point of view and have been deemed appropriate and accurate by my friends who celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Some of these recordings may already be familiar to you but hopefully you will find a couple that are not.
Here is a short list of family-friendly recordings sure to please. These CDs are available from Amazon.com and iTunes unless noted otherwise.
A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, the original sound track recording performed by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.
Maybe one of the most popular holiday recordings of all times, this sound track CD never gets old. It is a classic in the true sense of the word. Fred’s favorite cut: "O Tannenbaum."
A CHILD’S HANUKKAH, performed by the Jewish Wedding Band.
The liner notes say it best, "The sizzle of latkes, the trill of a klezmer clarinet, jingling tambourines, children’s songs and laughter. Enjoy the joyful sounds of Hanukkah—dance and sing with traditional favorites and joyous new songs performed in English with Hebrew, Yiddish and Ladino." Fred’s favorite song: "Ochos Candelikas."
ARTHUR’S PERFECT CHRISTMAS, performed by Arthur and Friends.
This is a sound track recording for another popular annual holiday television program that has lots of great songs with embedded educational and cultural value such as "It’s Kwanzaa Time" and "Chanukah, Oh Chanukah." But Fred’s favorite is the very rockin’ "Boogie Woogie Christmas." (available at Amazon.com, not iTunes)
CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD, performed by various artists.
This recording from Putumayo World Music is filled with joyous sounds from an ethnically diverse group of musicians from around the world. This musical tour makes stops in Martinique "Douce Nuit" (Silent Night), Cuba "Paz en la Tierra" (Joy to the World) and France "White Christmas" to name a few. Performances range from passionate and exciting to tender and intimate. Fred’s favorite: "Venid Fieles Todos (Adeste Fidelis)" by Liuba Maria Hevia of Cuba. (available at Amazon.com, not iTunes)
CELEBRATE HANUKKAH, performed by various artists.
Craig Taubman brings together some of the finest contemporary recording artists in the Jewish music scene for this wonderful musical celebration of Hanukkah. Artists contributing songs include Joe Black, Laurence Juber, Debbie Friedman, Peter Yarrow and more. Fred’s favorite song: "Shel Hanukkah."
CHRISTMAS PARTY—HOLIDAY PIANO SPIKED WITH SWING, performed by Dave McKenna.
It is solo piano at its best—gentle and thoughtful at times, grooving and swinging at other times. Dave McKenna breezes through a wide range of holiday classics including "Silver Bells," "I’ll Be Home For Christmas" and "Sleigh Ride." Fred’s favorite: "Let It Snow."
KWANZAA FOR YOUNG PEOPLE (AND EVERYONE ELSE!), performed by various artists.
This recording has received rave reviews and is my go-to recording when I need a musical resource to help children learn about Kwanzaa. From the liner notes: "This delightful musical journey through the seven principles has valuable lessons, especially for young people, and will keep everyone humming, singing, dancing and reflecting throughout the Kwanzaa season and beyond." Fred’s favorite musical piece: "Kwanzaa Dance."
Unfortunately, I have run out of space. Here are a few titles also on my highly recommended list sure to please all ages: New Orleans Christmas (Putumayo World Music), James Taylor at Christmas (Columbia Records), GRP Christmas Collection, Volumes I-III (GRP Records), Prayer for Peace by Marcus Roberts (RCA Records) and Not a Traditional Christmas by Jessica Harper (Alacazam! Records).
Peace and happy holidays to all!
Fred Koch lives in Lake Bluff with his wife and son and is an award-winning music educator, recording artist and producer. His Web site, www.BestChildrensMusic.com, helps parents, teachers and librarians select quality children’s music. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.