Imaginative Conservative has posted an excellent list of classical Christmas recordings. As the recommendation for Berlioz’s L’ enfance du Christ indicates, the author knows his recordings. His last recommendation is Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, which for some reason had eluded my notice until this year, when I attended a concert in my new hometown of Provo, Utah, in which I was treated to hear the voices of Ralph Hancock’s wife and daughter, along with those of a full woman’s choir, tackle this delightful work.
My wife and I moved to Provo this fall so I could teach various Constitution-related classes at Utah Valley University. We’re within sight of the golden angel atop the local Mormon temple and the spires of BYU’s football stadium, and so, yeah, are pretty much living smack in the heart of LDS-land. For evangelical-ish Anglicans like us, that has its plusses, minuses, and surprises, but of course one of the big plusses is living a short walk away from Ralph, occasional Pomocon contributor, teacher of political philosophy at BYU, and author and translator of some of the wisest books out there, such as his The Responsibility of Reason, which among other benefits contains one of the best critiques of High Straussianism from a faith-friendly “moderate Straussian” standpoint.
Anyhow, that Britten work is very fine–Britten’s work is to my ears something of a mixed bag, but you don’t hear that in this composition. It was composed, apparently, during the worst days of WWII, when doubts about the survival of British independence had become plausible ones, and the pacifistic Britten felt he had to contribute something to sustain his homeland’s morale. Interesting that he turned to its tradition of Christmas carols to do so.
Well, if you’d prefer your Christmas music on a lower level, my affinities for my own homeland culture, that of the Southern California coastline, would recommend Los Straightjackets, the surf-band that wears Mexican wrestler masks:
Very solid LP. I’m thinking of them because my wife recently ran across an internet radio station, North Sea Surf Radio, that plays only surf music! There are now enough recordings by retro surf bands on top of the originals that you can live out your whole musical day within the confines a single rock n’ roll style, one that only lasted about two years as a hit-making phenomenon! It gets a little repetitive, sure, as the micro-genre was from the start, but few things are likely to put some zest into a drab day at the office, and some of the DJs are really good.
If you feel torn-between and in truth ill-at-ease with both the down-to-earth rock n’ roll joys from the likes of Los Straightjackets, or the high-culture classical pleasures from the likes of Berlioz, Britten, and Bach, perhaps you’re a Rock Music Fan. There are a few good rock Christmas songs, but I don’t recall the existence of a single good Christmas album in the rock genre.
So for you Rock Fans, among whom I am an ambivalent fellow-traveler, I’ll embed this completely non-Christmas-y video of the rock band I really wish I gotten to hear live this year, the collaboration between Cate Le Bon and White Fence man Tim Presley called Drinks. One bit of it–around minutes 16 to 24–is too much, but otherwise, rich food indeed for my mixed-up overly-arty soul.