The holidays are here, and we'd like to share some of our favorite music of the season. Watch these YouTube videos of music selected by our hosts and content producers, or listen on Spotify.
Check out our "Jingle All The Way" Spotify playlist here!
It's been a difficult year for many. Because we all "need a little music, need a little laughter," we start with a song from Jerry Herman's 1966 Broadway musical, MAME.
Ho, ho, ho!
Debra Lew Harder's pick: "Sleigh Ride," by Leroy Anderon, arr. Jason DePue. The DePue Brothers are classical musicians whose blend of bluegrass with classical—"Grassical"— is ingenious. They played their arrangement of the captivating classic "Sleigh Ride" in the WRTI performance studio!
Bob Perkins' pick: Natalie Cole and her father Nat King Cole, singing "The Christmas Song" by Mel Torme. Great seasonal song by two vocal greats.
Kevin Gordon's pick: "Silent Night," by Franz Gruber. As a child, it was the first piece of music that made me cry, because, as I told my parents, it's so beautiful.
Gregg Whiteside's pick: Also "Silent Night." Here's a version in its original German, written by Joseph Mohr in 1818.
Maureen Malloy's pick: Oscar Peterson's "It's a Marshmellow World." I'm a fan of holiday music that's not necessarily about Christmas. Growing up, I knew the Bing Crosby version and I love what Oscar Peterson did it with it here.
Mark Pinto's pick: "Bright, Bright the Holly Berries." Actually, I love all of their performances of the Alfred Burt carols, so it was hard to choose. This recording has always been a Pinto family favorite, and to me, as its lyrics say, "his is Christmastime!
Bob Craig's pick: "The Christmas Waltz," by Frank Sinatra. Maybe not as frivolous as the "Dance Of the Sugar Plum Fairy" but Frank, sporting a Stetson fedora from the '50's singing in three-quarter time and reassuring that "Santa's On His Way," surely makes the season merry and bright.
Susan Lewis' pick: "Carol of the Bells," sung by St. George Chapel Choir at Windsor Castle. Can't really pick just one, but listening to kids sing in a choir at Christmas always gets to me.
J. Michael Harrison's pick: "Christmas Time is Here," by Vince Guaraldi Trio. This tune always returns me to my childhood.
Bliss Michelson's pick: "Il est ne le divin enfant," a traditional French carol. In a time of holiday hustle and bustle, this ancient carol offers an oasis of calm and reflection.
Joe Patti's pick: "The Night Before Christmas," by Art Carney. The whole story in 2 minutes and 12 seconds ... with percussion!
Bobbi I. Booker's pick: "Life," a selection from Sérgio Mendes & The New Brasil '77. The eponymous-titled LP features the Brazilian musician's gifted interplay of bossa nova heavily crossed with jazz and funk. The tune, "Life," lyrically captures me, especially with its refrain: "If we just slow down/then maybe we'll see/all the time we had/we really weren't free.
Jessica Schultz's pick: Gloria in D Major, RV 589, by Vivaldi. It's just so beautiful and uplifting. Hearing it always brings back memories of singing in my high school choir, and feeling like I was walking on air after rehearsal early in the morning, in my own little world of elation from the joy of this music. It was a great way to start the day!
Ryan Gottlieb's pick: "Funky Funky Christmas," by Electric Jungle. Let's get funky!
Matt Silver's pick: "(Everybody's Waitin' for) The Man with the Bag" Veronica Swift's sass and style are irresistible; this is the kind of tune the Grinch listens to in private, letting his guard down and shaking his cynical head with a smirk of incredulous concession, thinking to himself—"wow, she's good."
Melinda Whiting's pick: "The Lamb," by John Tavener. Since I first sang it, I have loved this luminous setting of William Blake's profound ode to the Incarnation by a master of late-20th century sacred music. "The Lamb" is devastatingly simple, and incredibly difficult to sing well. By no means traditional Christmas fare, it encompasses nativity to crucifixion to transformation in two transcendent verses.
EXTRA picks: (because some of us can't pick just one)
"Oh Holy Night," sung by Kings College Choir:
"The First Noel," by The Philadelphia Brass Ensemble:
The Nutcracker Suite, Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra:
"Christmas Song," performed by Jason Vieux:
"Ding Dong Merrily on High" and "Good King Wenceslas," by DePue Brothers Band at WRTI in 2019:
"Greensleeves," performed by Lara Downes:
Music comforts, inspires, invigorates and gives us hope. We could go on and on, but we end with Pentatonix's virtual version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" - as a testament to the power of music and musicians to creatively keep the music playing, come what may.