Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Christmas Cornucopia – Eleventh Day #Emmylou Harris #Lawrence Sail by Thom Hickey


Welcome to day Eleven of the Christmas Cornucopia of art, music and poetry compiled by Thom Hickey of The Immortal Juke Box.

Featuring:

A Painting by Duccio (c1255 to c1319)

A poem by Lawrence Sail

Music by The Voice Squad, Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris

Our Nativity painting today is by a great Master from Sienna, Duccio Di Buoninsegna.

Since I first discovered the work of Duccio as a teenager I have been in thrall to the luminous beauty of his works.

His paintings seem to me to have been deeply pondered in his heart which gives them qualities of stillness and humility which I find overwhelmingly moving.

In particular, something about, ‘Duccio Blue’ sets my heart aflame.

duccio-the-nativity-with-the-prophets-isaiah-and-ezekiel-1308-1311-dw7c5b

For music to take you away from the daily tumult I offer you a precious work of the heart.

‘A Stor mo Chroi’ as performed by The Voice Squad (Phil Callery, Fran McPhail and Gerry Cullen) insists that we each attend to what is truly important in all our lives; the love we offer and the love we share.

Where else is your treasure to be found?

Onward!

We are nearing the end of our journey now with our Sleigh still moving forward following a star.

As you approach the end of any journey there is space for reflection on the path already traveled and anticipation of the welcome to be found at the destination.

The Holy Family, weary and anxious about the straitened circumstances surrounding the impending birth of Jesus had to hold on and have faith that somehow all would be well and they would be a family.

Above all Mary had to have faith that her encounter with the heavenly realm at the annunciation and the event foretold by the Angel Gabriel was miraculously true and that she would indeed be a mother to a saviour (though one she would have to nurse and nurture like any other human child).

There would have been no Christmas birth without Mary’s assent at the Annunciation. From that leap of faith heaven and earth became joined and history eternally altered.

Mary was in a very real sense the first disciple: accepting God’s call and following it never knowing the joys and sorrows it would entail as her son too accepted his destiny.

I was an altar server from the age of seven and I can still recite the responses to the Latin mass if I close my eyes.

I can also recall the way certain prayers had a profound impact on me that was probably based more on their literary and musical cadences than any theological understanding given my youth.

The prayer that always moved me the most was the Loreto Litany Of Mary, the reciting of which even in an almost empty church seemed to set up a palpable spiritual vibration in my being.

‘Mother most admirable, Mother of good Counsel, Mother of our Creator, Mother of our Saviour, ….
Mirror of Justice, Seat of wisdom, Cause of our joy, Spiritual vessel, vessel of honour …..
Mystical rose, Tower of David, Tower of ivory, House of gold ……. ‘

Those flowing phrases will never leave me.

Now a music choice which shares the Litany’s hypnotic attraction.

From Patty Griffin, one of the brim full jars of American song, ‘Mary’.

I spoke earlier about nursing and nurturing and I can think of no more apposite artist to express those qualities than Emmylou Harris as she invokes in, ‘Light Of The Stable’ the glorious mystery which kindled a light which still burns bright today some two thousand years and more since it first shone in Bethlehem.

 

The poem today is, ‘Christmas Night’ by a contemporary English poet, Lawrence Sail.

‘On the wind, a drifting echo
Of simple songs. In the city
the streetlamps, haloed innocents,
click into instant sleep.
The darkness at last breathes.

In dreams of wholeness, irony
is a train melting to distance;
and the word, a delighted child
Gazing in safety at
a star solid as flesh.

©Thom Hickey 2016

How quickly time flies when you are enjoying yourself…..a wonderful series that culminates tomorrow with The Immortal Jukebox Christmas Day post.  Thanks to Thom for such a wonderful lead up to the big day.

About Thom Hickey

Thom Hickey one of the blessed 50s baby boomer generation, was born in London into an Irish family and formally educated at catholic schools and Cambridge University. More importantly he was informally educated by the BBC, The Observer, The New Statesman and The New Yorker. His music professors were radio giants Charlie Gillett, John Peel and Emperor Rosko. The print columns of Richard Williams, Ian MacDonald and Tony Russell were religiously read and annotated.

Further intensive study was conducted at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Hope and Anchor, the 100 Club, Ronnie Scott’s and the Rainbow. Many investment portfolios were foresworn in favour of sourcing recorded treasures from the hallowed halls of HMV, Colletts, Tower and Virgin Records and mail order outfits galore.

He has a continuing belief that you can never watch too many Westerns or Ken Burns documentaries, read enough biographies about Samuel Beckett or Buster Keaton and that there is always just one more Bob Dylan bootleg he needs.

To finance his obsessions he has worked in financial recruitment, as a charity campaigner and been a senior investigator into complaints about the NHS. He now lives deep in the Surrey woods with his beautiful wife, graceful daughter and inspirational son.

Connect to Thom

Blog: https://theimmortaljukebox.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thomhickey55

Please head over to Thom’s to read his current posts… always something to enjoy.. thanks Sally

The previous Christmas Cornucopia can be found in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/thom-hickeys-cornucopia-of-christmas-art-music-and-poetry/

 

Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – Christmas Cornucopia Day Ten #Rublev #Fats Waller by Thom Hickey


Welcome to day Ten of the Christmas Cornucopia of art, music and poetry compiled by Thom Hickey of The Immortal Juke Box.

Christmas Cornucopia Day Ten #Rublev #Fats Waller by Thom Hickey

Featuring:

A painting by Andrei Rublev (approx 1360s to 1420s)

A Poem by Charles Causley (1917 to 2003)

Music by Herbert Howells (1892 to 1983), Big Joe Turner and Fats Waller

 

rublev-nativity

Our painting today is by Andrei Rublev whose Icons and Frescos are supreme works of devotional art.

They are works to be still before.

If you surrender to these works they will work in your soul.

Rublev, following the Orthodox tradition, sees the events of The Nativity not as historical episodes but as living events the faithful community participated in as they celebrated the liturgy.

The calm and peace of the image contains immense and complex feeling.

The birth of The Saviour is shown as a cosmic event which is yet an acceptance of human mortality and frailness.

Herbert Howells music has an English reticence which belies the oceanic depths of feeling it can summon from the listener.

His, ‘A Spotless Rose’ especially when sung with the aching purity of The New College Oxford Choir tenderly ushers the cosmic into our mortal consciousness.

Onward!

Today I think it’s time to remember that Christmas is a time for celebration.

A time to meet up with old friends and make new ones.

A time to sing and dance and laugh.

A time to shake our fists in the face of the dark, cruel winter as we affirm our faith in the inevitable restorative power of the light.

For many years I did much of my celebrating in bars, pubs, Honky Tonks and Road Houses soaking up the music and the booze as the nights progressed. The music choices today reflect that biblious spirit.

First, the Boss Of The Blues – Big Joe Turner. Big is no empty boast; Joe was over 6ft 2 and weighed more than 300 pounds so when he arrived in a room you knew he was there!

You would also know Joe was around because his voice could break through walls and wake the dead.

Joe had to develop his shouting style when he worked in the hectic, heaving bars of wide-open Kansas City in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Even though the joints Joe worked in such as the Kingfish and the Sunset would have been rammed to the doors with free spending, free fighting customers Joe never had any problem getting heard from behind the bar.

As, ‘The Singing Barman’ he formed a famous partnership with pianist Pete Johnson immortalised in the standard, ‘Roll ‘Em Pete’.

en.wikipedia.org

If I had been a customer I would have ordered (in honour of the Rudy Toombes song) One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer – knocked them back and settled in for a night of peerless blues.

Joe’s career lasted some 60 years and he was variously styled as a bluesman, a jazz singer, a Rythmn and Blues stylist and a pioneer rock ‘n’ roller – whatever the label the big man went his own sweet way launching every song into the stratosphere with the immense power of his vocals.

From the moment, ‘Christmas Date Boogie’ opens we know we are in good hands.

Big Joe is very much the master of ceremonies marshalling the instrumental forces around him. They are all fine players given their chance to shine but there is no doubt who is the star of the show!

You can just imagine the big beaming smile of Joe as he tears into this Christmas frolic.

Resistance is useless – where’s the Bourbon?

I’ll let the very fine Irish poet (I think you may have guessed by now that I am somewhat well disposed to Irish poets) Michael Longley introduce the next music Titan:

‘He plays for hours and hours on end and thought there be
Oases one part water, two parts gin
He tumbles past to reign, wise and thirsty, at the still centre of his loud dominion –
THE SHOOK, THE SHAKE, THE SHEIKH OF ARABY’.

The subject of the poem and the artist featured in our second music selection is, of course, the one and only, one man musical encyclopedia and indefatigable party starter: Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller.

A short list of his accomplishments would have to include his very considerable prowess as a pianist, organist, singer, songwriter, composer and comedian.

Yet any list of talents and achievements would undersell Fats impact on his contemporary artists and his audiences.

Fats was beyond category – he was Fats Waller and The Lord of any room he chose to light up.

He could in the course of a single number go from being rollickingly rumbustious to wistful gentle melancholy.

Sadly his early death meant that the true depth of his talents were never fully sounded but nevertheless he leaves a unique legacy of wondrously entertaining recordings.

If you ever need cheering up and reminding of how good it is to be alive just press the button next to Fats name and you will feel a whole lot better – I guarantee it.

Today’s poem is, ‘Mary’s Song’ by Charles Causley.

‘Warm in the wintry air
You lie,
The ox and the donkey
Standing by,
With summer eyes
They seem to say:
Welcome, Jesus,
On Christmas Day!

Sleep, King Jesus:
Your diamond crown
High in the sky
Where stars look down.
Let your reign
Of love begin,
That all the world may enter in.’

©Thom Hickey 2016

My thanks to Thom for this lovely series in the run up to Christmas bringing all the elements of art, music and poetry together… Only two days to go.

About Thom Hickey

Thom Hickey one of the blessed 50s baby boomer generation, was born in London into an Irish family and formally educated at catholic schools and Cambridge University. More importantly he was informally educated by the BBC, The Observer, The New Statesman and The New Yorker. His music professors were radio giants Charlie Gillett, John Peel and Emperor Rosko. The print columns of Richard Williams, Ian MacDonald and Tony Russell were religiously read and annotated.

Further intensive study was conducted at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Hope and Anchor, the 100 Club, Ronnie Scott’s and the Rainbow. Many investment portfolios were foresworn in favour of sourcing recorded treasures from the hallowed halls of HMV, Colletts, Tower and Virgin Records and mail order outfits galore.

He has a continuing belief that you can never watch too many Westerns or Ken Burns documentaries, read enough biographies about Samuel Beckett or Buster Keaton and that there is always just one more Bob Dylan bootleg he needs.

To finance his obsessions he has worked in financial recruitment, as a charity campaigner and been a senior investigator into complaints about the NHS. He now lives deep in the Surrey woods with his beautiful wife, graceful daughter and inspirational son.

Connect to Thom

Blog: https://theimmortaljukebox.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thomhickey55

Please head over to Thom’s to read his current posts… always something to enjoy.. thanks Sally

The previous Christmas Cornucopia can be found in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/thom-hickeys-cornucopia-of-christmas-art-music-and-poetry/

Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archive – Christmas Cornucopia Day Nine #Rubens #Chopin by Thom Hickey


Welcome to day Nine of the Christmas Cornucopia of art, music and poetry compiled by Thom Hickey of The Immortal Juke Box.

Featuring:

A Painting by Peter Paul Rubens (1577 to 1640)

A Poem by Norman Nicholson (1914 to 1987)

Music by Chopin played by Claudio Arrau (1903 to 1991), Joe Tex and June Christy.

Our painting today is, ‘The Adoration of the Magi’ by Peter Paul Rubens.

More accurately, it is the the modello (a sketch shown to a patron for approval of the composition) for the altarpiece painted by Rubens for the convent of the Dames Blanches, Louvain now in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge.

rubens-adoration

There is a wonderful humanity in this work.

Though the event depicted was of universal importance it was witnessed, experienced, by, ‘ordinary’ men and women (and let us not forget animals as the peering camels here humorously demonstrate) on a day when the sun rose and set like any other.

Miracles take place (far more often than, ‘common sense’ will allow) against the background of every day events.

Rubens manages to make each of the individual characters in the scene vividly present.

I feel as if I could walk directly into this company and be made welcome.

Devotees of Chopin and his piano works, especially The Nocturnes, can spend long hours debating which great pianist has searched their depths most successfully.

I have never wavered in my conviction that the magical recordings made by Claudio Arrau must wear the crown.

His version of The Nocturnes has the quality of meditative prayer.

After the above and yesterday’s stop to gaze reverentially heavenward it’s time to turn to more earthly considerations.

The Greeks, as you might have expected, had different words to describe the varied forms of love we express and experience.

Yesterday we were concerned with Agape – the love of God for man and man for God. Today we will find songs that express Eros – sensuous, sexual love and the appreciation of beauty and Philia – the love expressed in affectionate regard and friendship.

Now we turn to a tremendous southern soul sermon from a master and mentor for the genre, Joe Tex. ‘I’ll Make Everyday Christmas (For My Woman)’ glows bright with Joe’s gently enveloping passion.

Joe’s forte was telling stories in song using humour and homespun wisdom so that you felt he was gifting you the hard won lessons of a richly lived life.

Joe had a country preacher’s sense of the hunger in the audience for parables that would make sense of the roadblocks and confusions assailing them in their lives and provide a route map for the way ahead.

They knew that Joe didn’t pretend that he had never been a rounder and a rogue as well as a true romantic and love disciple.

We often, rightly, pay more attention to the testimony of someone who admits to failure and frailty than those in their whited sepulchres who are quick to admonish our every fault.

Joe sings the song with a steadily growing intensity almost as if the promise he was making was as much to his own better self as to the woman it was made to.

When the record finishes its hard not to say, ‘Amen! Brother, Amen!’ and vow to make sure you too take care to make everyday Christmas for your own woman or man.

Next, the delightfully cool Miss June Christy with, ‘Christmas Heart’. June was a veteran big band vocalist who followed Anita O’Day as the singer with Stan Kenton.

As a solo artist she made a magnificent album, ‘Something Cool’ which should be on the shelves of anyone with an appreciation of the art of jazz singing.

I have always found something deeply engaging in the understated, wistful tone June Christy brings to a song.

It seems she has stripped out all unnecessary flourishes so that we hear the essence of the song as she steers us gently to understanding through her embrace of the melody and lyric.

The lack of hectoring or self regard in, ‘Christmas Heart’ makes its dreamlike plea for Christmas to be a day when all the wounded find rest and balm all the more affecting.

You never really need to ask who is your neighbour – just look around you.

Today’s poem is, ‘Carol For The Last Christmas Eve’ by a favourite poet of mine, Norman Nicholson from Millom in England’s rural Cumbria.

Never fashionable Nicholson’s work will endure.

‘The first night, the first night,
The night that Christ was born,
His mother looked in his eyes and saw
Her maker in her son.

The twelfth night, the twelfth night,
After Christ was born, the Wise Men found the child and knew
Their search had just begun.

But the last night, the last night,
Since ever Christ was born,
What his mother knew will be known again,
And what was found by the Three Wise Men,
And the sun will rise and so will we,

Umpteen hundred and eternity’

©ThomHickey 2016

My thanks to Thom for another outstanding post that brings all the essential elements of Christmas together – Another three days to go…

 

About Thom Hickey

Thom Hickey one of the blessed 50s baby boomer generation, was born in London into an Irish family and formally educated at catholic schools and Cambridge University. More importantly he was informally educated by the BBC, The Observer, The New Statesman and The New Yorker. His music professors were radio giants Charlie Gillett, John Peel and Emperor Rosko. The print columns of Richard Williams, Ian MacDonald and Tony Russell were religiously read and annotated.

Further intensive study was conducted at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Hope and Anchor, the 100 Club, Ronnie Scott’s and the Rainbow. Many investment portfolios were foresworn in favour of sourcing recorded treasures from the hallowed halls of HMV, Colletts, Tower and Virgin Records and mail order outfits galore.

He has a continuing belief that you can never watch too many Westerns or Ken Burns documentaries, read enough biographies about Samuel Beckett or Buster Keaton and that there is always just one more Bob Dylan bootleg he needs.

To finance his obsessions he has worked in financial recruitment, as a charity campaigner and been a senior investigator into complaints about the NHS. He now lives deep in the Surrey woods with his beautiful wife, graceful daughter and inspirational son.

Connect to Thom

Blog: https://theimmortaljukebox.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thomhickey55

Please head over to Thom’s to read his current posts… always something to enjoy.. thanks Sally

The previous Christmas Cornucopia can be found in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/thom-hickeys-cornucopia-of-christmas-art-music-and-poetry/

 

Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – Christmas Cornucopia #Patrick Kavanagh #The Chieftains – Day Eight by Thom Hickey


Welcome to day Eight of the Christmas Cornucopia of art, music and poetry compiled by Thom Hickey of The Immortal Juke Box.

Christmas Cornucopia #Patrick Kavanagh #The Chieftains – Day Eight by Thom Hickey

Featuring:

A Painting by El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos 1541 to 1614)

A Poem by Patrick Kavanagh (1904 to 1967)

Music by John Dowland (1563 to 1626) played by Julian Bream, The Chieftains with Nanci Griffith and The Trinity Lavra Choir

Our painting today, ‘The Adoration of the Shepherds’ is a work of blazing, visionary brilliance by El Greco who had the artistic bravery characteristic of genius in all ages.

el-greco-nativity

El Greco depicted the human body and used colour and perspective in a manner that was wholly individual.

The awe inspiring intensity of his vision breaks down any conventional, ‘tutored’ response.

To my mind his art is a true veil shredding glimpse into a co-existing reality : present then and present now.

This painting, more than any other I know, captures the enormity of the event which took place some two thousand years ago.

It is a peerless hymn of exultation and adoration.

Today’s spirit refreshing music comes courtesy of John Dowland who can genuinely be described as a Renaissance Man in view of the time he lived in and the depth of his talents as a composer, Lutenist and singer.

His works will enter your consciousness like a pebble dropped into a pond with ever widening circles of effect.

Julian Bream is another musician with, ‘The Touch’.

Music played by Bream flows purely and naturally from his fingers to our hearts.

Further music comes from two countries: Russia and Ireland which share a reverence for poets and prophets, visionaries, bards and shamans.

Both have produced more than their fair share of saints, scholars and wayward genuises.

In both lands a sense of the numinous pervades the air and prayers ascend unceasingly heavenward – even in the increasingly secular modern age.

Of course, both countries are filled with a hundred times the number of would be writers to actual page blackening writers and both have to deal with the drunken consequences of frustrated spirituality encountering the demon drink.

Still, veil-piercing poetry and song are central to the cultural life and achievements of Ireland and Russia.

Both peoples love to carouse until they are stupefied yet both are capable of being stilled to silence and tears by a simple lyric or an exquisite slow air.

Let’s listen now to the exquisite, ‘Wexford Carol’ performed by the veritable custodians of Ireland’s traditional music, The Chieftains (here accompanied by a Texas rose, Nanci Griffith).

The Wexford Carol may well date back to the twelfth century though it’s widespread popularity is due to the work of William Gratton Flood, who was musical director of Enniscorthy Cathedral in the late 19th century.

The Chieftains play with an authority born of thousands of hours of perfecting their craft as traditional musicians – always respectful of the source material while being alert to each other’s role in bringing a tune to shimmering life.

The Chieftains, led by Piper Paddy Moloney, who has proved to be a natural born networker, have recorded many inspired collaborations with leading artists in many musical genres (though their greatest collaboration is probably with an artist from their own island – Van Morrison).

Here, Nanci Griffith sings the carol with a beguiling gravity befitting the immensity of the events portrayed. Listening I feel as I were marching in a torchlit devotional procession with the same moon that shone over Bethlehem above the sentinel trees of the forest around me.

Next, from a powerhouse of Otthodox Russian monasticism, ‘The Song Of The Magi’. The choir is from the Trinity Lavra (monastery/hermitage) of St Sergius in Sergiyev Posad some 50 miles from Moscow.

This has to be the sound of the breath of the Russian soul. Russian Othodox services provide doorways to contemplate the divine – an opportunity in stillness to be lifted into a different realm of being.

Giving ourselves over to such an experience can be profoundly uplifting and over time transformative.

Russian spirituality opens itself to mystery and awe accepting that grace cannot be willed but only gratefully accepted.

The Magi travelled long miles in search of a new kind of King and gave their gifts to a babe in a manger. Perhaps, listening to this work we could learn to give the gift of an attentive soul.

The poem today, ‘A Christmas Childhood’ is provided by one of the great figures of 20th Century Irish Literature, the sage of Iniskeen, Patrick Kavanagh.

‘Cassioepeia was over
Cassidy’s hanging hill,
I looked and three whin bushes rode across
The horizon – the Three Wise Kings.

An old man passing said:
‘Can’t he make it talk –
The melodian’. I hid in the doorway
And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.

I nicked six nicks on the door-post
With my penknife’s big blade –
There was a little one for cutting tobacco.
And I was six Christmases of age.

My father played the melodeon,
My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
On the Virgin Mary’s blouse’.

This post dedicated to the deceased members of The Chieftains:
Fiddler Martin Fay, Tin Whistle and Bodhran player Sean Potts and the mystical doyen of the Irish Harp, Derek Bell.

©ThomHickey 2014

My thanks to Thom for another outstanding post that brings all the essential elements of Christmas together – Another four days to go…

 

About Thom Hickey

Thom Hickey one of the blessed 50s baby boomer generation, was born in London into an Irish family and formally educated at catholic schools and Cambridge University. More importantly he was informally educated by the BBC, The Observer, The New Statesman and The New Yorker. His music professors were radio giants Charlie Gillett, John Peel and Emperor Rosko. The print columns of Richard Williams, Ian MacDonald and Tony Russell were religiously read and annotated.

Further intensive study was conducted at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Hope and Anchor, the 100 Club, Ronnie Scott’s and the Rainbow. Many investment portfolios were foresworn in favour of sourcing recorded treasures from the hallowed halls of HMV, Colletts, Tower and Virgin Records and mail order outfits galore.

He has a continuing belief that you can never watch too many Westerns or Ken Burns documentaries, read enough biographies about Samuel Beckett or Buster Keaton and that there is always just one more Bob Dylan bootleg he needs.

To finance his obsessions he has worked in financial recruitment, as a charity campaigner and been a senior investigator into complaints about the NHS. He now lives deep in the Surrey woods with his beautiful wife, graceful daughter and inspirational son.

Connect to Thom

Blog: https://theimmortaljukebox.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thomhickey55

Please head over to Thom’s to read his current posts… always something to enjoy.. thanks Sally

The previous Christmas Cornucopia can be found in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/thom-hickeys-cornucopia-of-christmas-art-music-and-poetry/

Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – Christmas Cornucopia Day Seven #Tintoretto #Janet Baker by Thom Hickey


 

Welcome to day seven of the Christmas Cornucopia of art, music and poetry compiled by Thom Hickey of The Immortal Juke Box.

Christmas Cornucopia Day Seven #Tintoretto #Janet Baker by Thom Hickey

Featuring:

A Painting by Tintoretto (1518 to 1594)

A Poem by Richard Middleton (1882 to 1911)

Music by Gluck sung by Janet Baker, Chris Isaak and John Prine

tinteretto-nativity

Tintoretto’s wondrous Nativity shows how, ‘The Light Of The World’ once confined to a manger within a rude stable began to bestow grace on all the surrounding world.

This a dynamic painting which foreshadows the mission of redemption the tiny babe was born to accomplish.

Janet Baker is an artist of the highest order.

Her utter technical command and her ability to unerringly find emotional truth resulted in a legendary career garlanded with landmark recordings and never to be forgotten stage performances.

Her performance of, ‘Che faro senza Euridice’ will live with me always as I make my journey through the dark wood.

Onward!

Well our Sleigh has travelled more than halfway now on our journey to celebrate ChristmasTide.

Yesterday’s choices put me in something of a wistful contemplative mood and led to today’s selections by Chris Isaak and John Prine.

Christmas is a time when we often turn our minds to reflection on the health of our relationships. Relationships with our parents, our siblings, our children and our spouses or partners.

And, we remember bitterly or with rueful affection the relationships of old which are now part of our history – part of the person staring back at us in the mirror.

Christmas can be a healing and nurturing time for relationships it can also be the occasion for exhausting, tearful sunderings which will sully the season for years or decades to come.

As in all things some will say you get the Christmas your life through the preceding year has mapped out for you.

I now present a ballad of loss and longing from the golden boy out of Stockton, California – Chris Isaak. It’s not his fault that he looks like a matinee idol and that the microphone loves him almost as much as the camera.

‘Christmas On TV’ tells the sorry tale which Isaak sings without over emoting of a bereft husband with his nose pressed to the window glass watching the Christmas celebrations of his ex-wife and her well heeled new beau.

Though he’s only across the street from the happy pair (or so they seem to him) he might as well be a million miles away. It’s so easy to be all alone in the midst of the crowd as the carols play and the lights twinkle.

Sometimes only fortitude, a good whiskey and a ballad in blue will get you through.

Merry Christmas to the lost and the lonely, the abandoned, the abused and the outcasts.

 

Next John Prine who sits at the top table of American songwriters leaning back in his chair with either a rueful smile or a goofy grin depending on the circumstances of the day.

Prine has a glorious gift for examining the human heart and it’s myriad joys and travails with a the precision of a tender surgeon. It seems as if he has watched carefully and listened closely as he has moved through life – building up a store of experiences he can hone into humorous shaggy dog stories, touching love songs or heartbreaking tales of misspent or misshapen lives.

John Prine has wisdom which he wears lightly – we can all learn a lot from leaning in when he speaks.

Very few songwriters could match the songwriting carpentry Prine demonstrates in, Christmas In Prison’. I remember my intake of appreciative breath when I first heard the lines:

‘I dream of her always even when I don’t dream – her name’s on my tongue and her blood’s in my stream’.

The Big House searchlight spotlights the snowflakes like dust in the sun and the prisoners aching for those they love outside the walls make do with Turkey and pistols carved out of wood.

They’re all homesick waiting for eternity to release them. In the meantime nothing to do but sing up and hope the homesick blues fade away for one night at least.

John Prine has a heart as big as any goddamn jail and if I’m ever in Prison it’s his songs I would sing as the doors clanged shut each night.

Today’s poem, ‘The Carol Of The Poor Children’ is by Richard Middleton.

‘Are we naked, mother, and are we starving-poor
Oh, see what gifts the kings have brought outside the stable door
Are we cold, mother, the ass will give his hay
To make the manger warm and keep the cruel winds away
We are the poor children, but not so poor who sing Our Carols with our voiceless hearts to greet the new-born king
On this night of all nights, when in the frosty sky A new star, a kind star is shining on high!’.

©ThomHickey 2014

A big thank you to Thom for another terrific post. The countdown to Christmas Day is gathering pace and please join us again for Day Eight tomorrow.

About Thom Hickey

Thom Hickey one of the blessed 50s baby boomer generation, was born in London into an Irish family and formally educated at catholic schools and Cambridge University. More importantly he was informally educated by the BBC, The Observer, The New Statesman and The New Yorker. His music professors were radio giants Charlie Gillett, John Peel and Emperor Rosko. The print columns of Richard Williams, Ian MacDonald and Tony Russell were religiously read and annotated.

Further intensive study was conducted at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Hope and Anchor, the 100 Club, Ronnie Scott’s and the Rainbow. Many investment portfolios were foresworn in favour of sourcing recorded treasures from the hallowed halls of HMV, Colletts, Tower and Virgin Records and mail order outfits galore.

He has a continuing belief that you can never watch too many Westerns or Ken Burns documentaries, read enough biographies about Samuel Beckett or Buster Keaton and that there is always just one more Bob Dylan bootleg he needs.

To finance his obsessions he has worked in financial recruitment, as a charity campaigner and been a senior investigator into complaints about the NHS. He now lives deep in the Surrey woods with his beautiful wife, graceful daughter and inspirational son.

Connect to Thom

Blog: https://theimmortaljukebox.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thomhickey55

Please head over to Thom’s to read his current posts… always something to enjoy.. thanks Sally

The previous Christmas Cornucopia can be found in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/thom-hickeys-cornucopia-of-christmas-art-music-and-poetry/

Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – Christmas Cornucopia Day Six #Christina Rossetti #Gothic Voices by Thom Hickey


Welcome to day six of the Christmas Cornucopia of art, music and poetry compiled by Thom Hickey of The Immortal Juke Box.

Christmas Cornucopia Day Six #Christina Rossetti #Gothic Voices by Thom Hickey

Featuring:

A Painting by Geertgen tot Sint Jans (1465 to 1495)

A Poem by Christina Rossetti (1830 to 1894)

Music by Hildegard of Bingen (1098 to 1179) sung by Emma Kirkby and Gothic Voices, The Unthank Sisters and The Larks.

night-nativity

St Bridget of Sweden had a mystic vision of The Nativity.

Today’s painting by the Flemish artist Geertgen tot Sint Jans makes that ineffable vision a reality before our eyes and in our hearts through virtuoso deployment of light and shadow.

Looking at this tender scene we remember Christ’s statement:

I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’

Our heart stilling music today was composed by one of the most extraordinary figures of the Middle Ages (indeed of all Ages!).

Hildegard of Bingen was a Benedictine Abbess whose haunting compositions refelect her mystical experiences and her philosophical beliefs.

I vividly recall the first time I heard this music in Tower Records at Piccadilly Circus in London. As the gorgeous vocal lines enchanted me I knew, at once, that this record would be a life time companion. And so it has proved.

The majestic soprano Emma Kirkby wonderfully complemented by The Gothic Voices under the direction of Christopher Page takes us into mystical terrain where every hair is numbered like every grain of sand.

Terrain where Hildegard’s vision of herself as a feather on the breath of God makes perfect sense.

We are all feathers on the breath of God.

Now we return to our Sleigh which has been travelling for 6 days rushing towards its destination on Christmas Eve.

So, for today’s post we will apply the breaks to give ourselves and our willing reindeers a much needed rest.

Sometimes the preparations for Christmas can overwhelm us as we worry about all we have to do in such a short time. We can be in danger of falling into the trap of speeding through the season without stopping to savour its true joys and meaning.

Perhaps we should remember that at the heart of this event is a birth. A birth much awaited and anticipated by the contemporary family at the centre of the story and by the wider human family of time past, time present and time future.

At this birth time and eternity merged to create a new beginning of hope and promise for all of mankind.

Mothers have to learn to be still and patient as they wait (especially for their first birth) for the great day, the great moment, to arrive when they will no longer be a mother-to-be but a mother.

There comes a miraculous moment, a moment, when after all the waiting and worry that the baby, her child! who has been knit together in the safety of their womb emerges into the world as a unique new creation.

This is a moment for stillness and awe and for gratitude.

The next recording featured today is achingly filled with stillness and awe.

The Unthank Sisters from God haunted Northumberland perform Christina Rosetti’s, ‘In The Bleak ‘Midwinter’ with startling calm and grace allowing the song to breathe and bloom into something truly marvelous.

I imagine we all hold our breath throughout this performance as we are caught in the spell of the poet’s striking images and the heart piercing intensity of the siblings vocals.

Now, a recording by one of my favourite 50s vocal groups The Larks.

The sound here is hushed, seemingly suspended in time. Listening to, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ I feel as if I were a snowflake caressed by gentle drafts and surrounded by millions of other snowflakes falling slowly, slowly, slowly to the earth below.

 

It would be perverse today to showcase any other poem but Christina Rosetti’s masterpiece, ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’.

‘Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air-
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss

What can I give Him?
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give Him-

Give my heart’

©Thom Hickey 2014

Halfway through this amazing series and please join us again for Day Seven tomorrow.

About Thom Hickey

Thom Hickey one of the blessed 50s baby boomer generation, was born in London into an Irish family and formally educated at catholic schools and Cambridge University. More importantly he was informally educated by the BBC, The Observer, The New Statesman and The New Yorker. His music professors were radio giants Charlie Gillett, John Peel and Emperor Rosko. The print columns of Richard Williams, Ian MacDonald and Tony Russell were religiously read and annotated.

Further intensive study was conducted at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Hope and Anchor, the 100 Club, Ronnie Scott’s and the Rainbow. Many investment portfolios were foresworn in favour of sourcing recorded treasures from the hallowed halls of HMV, Colletts, Tower and Virgin Records and mail order outfits galore.

He has a continuing belief that you can never watch too many Westerns or Ken Burns documentaries, read enough biographies about Samuel Beckett or Buster Keaton and that there is always just one more Bob Dylan bootleg he needs.

To finance his obsessions he has worked in financial recruitment, as a charity campaigner and been a senior investigator into complaints about the NHS. He now lives deep in the Surrey woods with his beautiful wife, graceful daughter and inspirational son.

Connect to Thom

Blog: https://theimmortaljukebox.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thomhickey55

Please head over to Thom’s to read his current posts… always something to enjoy.. thanks Sally

The previous Christmas Cornucopia can be found in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/thom-hickeys-cornucopia-of-christmas-art-music-and-poetry/

Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – Christmas Cornucopia #Louis Armstrong, #Kay Starr – Day Five by Thom Hickey


Welcome to day Five of Christmas Cornucopia – the art, music and poetry of the festive season courtesy of Thom Hickey.

Fifth Day featuring :

A Painting by Taddeo Gaddi (1290 to 1366)

A Poem by Patric Dickinson (1919 to 1994)

Music by Louis Armstrong and Kay Starr

Today’s painting is by the Florentine Taddeo Gaddi who was the star pupil of the great Master, Giotto.

His, ‘The Angelic Announcement to the Shepherds’ can be seen in the Baroncelli Chapel within Santa Croce in his native Florence.

It is a wonderfully dramatic painting.

gaddi_taddeo_announcement

An Angel acts as God’s messenger alerting humankind to an event upon which all history will pivot.

The Sheep are stirring and the Dog’s keen senses alert him to the messenger from afar.

As the Angel speaks eternity merges with linear time.

How could the waking Shepherd find the words to tell his sleeping companion what he has learned?

Surely all he could say was:

‘Let us go – someone we must see is waiting for us just down the hill. Come now!’

It is an invitation which remains open.

Onward!

Our Sleigh is picking up a very special passenger today. He’s here to sing and play on a Christmas song, ‘Zat You, Santa Claus?’ that has the effervescence of a fine champagne.

Of course, I’m talking about Louis Armstrong.

If they ever get round to carving four heads into a mountain to celebrate musicians in the way that Presidents are celebrated at Mount Rushmore there can be no argument among men and women of reason that the first head to be carved must be that of Louis Armstrong.

Zat You, Santa? Zat You, Louis?

I could set out an exhaustive list of his astounding achievements as the preeminent musician of the 20th century with special reference to his role as the pioneer genius who transformed a pastime into an art form and who influenced everyone who ever had the good fortune to hear him play.

Others far better qualified than I have written major scholarly tomes on the subject. So, I will limit myself to a few remarks on the effect hearing the great man has had on me.

When I hear Louis play (at every period of his career) I hear the sound of a master musician revelling in the sheer joy of making music.

It was as if he lived and breathed through playing his horn – singing a song of exultation; using without reserve the wondrous gifts of imagination and creative daring yoked to technical brilliance that made him a such a unique musician.

Add to that his personal warmth and ebullience and you have a musician and a man who simply made everyone who encountered him feel better, more human and more glad to be alive.

Isn’t what Santa Claus is supposed to do too?

Next a singer, the late Kay Starr, who knew how to swing and who had the chops to share a bandstand with the finest musicians of her era.

Born on a reservation in Oklahoma with an Iroquois father and an Irish/Native American mother she was as American as you can be.

Maybe that’s how she could sing the hell out of any song in any genre of American popular music.

Kay had an inbuilt sense of rhythm and the ability to musically inhabit and sell a lyric. Listen here to how she brings out the drive and the humour of, ‘Everybody’s Waitin’ For The Man With The Bag’.

One of the co-writers of the song was Dudley Brooks who featured earlier in the list featuring Elvis Presley.

I can’t honestly say I have done everything I should this year (extra special good) but I can recognise an extra special good singer when I hear one and Kay Starr must be one of the best and merriest we ever did have!

 

Today’s poem is, ‘Advent: A Carol’ by Patric Dickinson a writer who revered and translated the Classical poets while looking at the world himself with a sharply individual measured intelligence.

‘What did you hear?
Said stone to echo:
All that you told me
Said echo to stone.

Tidings, said echo,
Tidings, said stone,
Tidings of wonder
Said echo to stone.

Who then shall hear them?
Said stone to echo:
All people on earth,
Said echo to stone.

Turned into one,
Echo and stone,
The world for all coming
Turned into one.’

©Thom Hickey 2016

Another wonderful post and I hope you will drop in again tomorrow for the sixth day of the series.

About Thom Hickey

Thom Hickey one of the blessed 50s baby boomer generation, was born in London into an Irish family and formally educated at catholic schools and Cambridge University. More importantly he was informally educated by the BBC, The Observer, The New Statesman and The New Yorker. His music professors were radio giants Charlie Gillett, John Peel and Emperor Rosko. The print columns of Richard Williams, Ian MacDonald and Tony Russell were religiously read and annotated.

Further intensive study was conducted at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Hope and Anchor, the 100 Club, Ronnie Scott’s and the Rainbow. Many investment portfolios were foresworn in favour of sourcing recorded treasures from the hallowed halls of HMV, Colletts, Tower and Virgin Records and mail order outfits galore.

He has a continuing belief that you can never watch too many Westerns or Ken Burns documentaries, read enough biographies about Samuel Beckett or Buster Keaton and that there is always just one more Bob Dylan bootleg he needs.

To finance his obsessions he has worked in financial recruitment, as a charity campaigner and been a senior investigator into complaints about the NHS. He now lives deep in the Surrey woods with his beautiful wife, graceful daughter and inspirational son.

Connect to Thom

Blog: https://theimmortaljukebox.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thomhickey55

Please head over to Thom’s to read his current posts… always something to enjoy.. thanks Sally

The previous Christmas Cornucopia can be found in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/thom-hickeys-cornucopia-of-christmas-art-music-and-poetry/

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Christmas Cornucopia – Day Four #Roger Miller #Billy Eckstine by Thom Hickey


Welcome to the Fourth Day of the Christmas Cornucopia by Thom Hickey

Fourth Day featuring :

A painting by Giorgione (1477 to 1510)

A poem by Christopher Smart (1772 to 1771)

Music by Mae McKenna & Mairi Macinnes, Roger Miller and Billy Eckstine

Giorgione, a Venetian artist from the period of the High Renaissance, remains a figure of intense mystery.

giorgione_-_adoration_of_the_shepherds_-_national_gallery_of_art

What we can say from his, ‘The Adoration of the Shepherds’ (NGA Washington) is that he could suspend time and evoke awe and silent wonder.

This painting offers us a profound sense of reverence. The Nativity tableau shows Mary communing with her child as both motherly protector and prayerful worshiper.

Joseph, so often the forgotten man of the narrative, seems overwhelmed by the enormity and mystery of the events he has been caught up in.

Shepherds were ill-regarded outsiders in biblical times. Yet, it was they who were granted the blessing of an audience with the new born King.

This must be some new type of King who welcomes first the poor and the ragged before the rich and high born.

The sight greeting the Shepherds was beyond words.

Their attitude of humble surrender to an experience beyond their understanding is intensely moving.

Our contemplative music today comes from the Hebrides.

The Christ Child’s Lullaby or Taladh Chriosda in Scots Gaelic is full to the brim with maternal feeling for the vulnerable new born.

Mother and child, once one, now two, create together a sacred space where love and mutual regard dwells.

The standing stone vocals of Mae McKenna and Mairi Macinnes, switching fluently between languages, supported by the pellucid instrumental playing of William Jackson and Tony McManus casts a timeless spell.

Onward!

Our Sleigh cuts a deep track through the falling snow as it’s carrying a whole heap of presents for all the good boys and girls all around the world (the list has been checked twice and we surely know who has been naughty and who has been nice).

Our first song is, ‘Old Toy Trains’ by the one and only Roger Miller. He wrote a hatful of hit songs, was a multiple Grammy winner and admitted to the Country Music Hall Of Fame.

In addition he also had a theatrical Tony Award in his trophy cabinet for his score for the hit Broadway musical, ‘Big River’ which he based on the writings of Mark Twain.

Despite all the above he has always seemed to be to be under rated with many damning him with the faint praise of describing him as a writer of, ‘Novelty Songs’.

Certainly there is humour in his songs but as anyone who is any kind of honest writer will tell you it is much harder to write comedy than it is to write tragedy.

https://www.pinterest.ie/traystone1/roger-miller/

The key to understanding Miller’s very real eminence as a songwriter lies in the sharpness of his observations expressed in language that is simple in nature but complex in impact.

Roger Miller had a poor upbringing but as he said words became his toys and you can feel that in the playfulness and delight with which he uses the resources of the American language as spoken by the everyday working man and woman.

Roger Miller liked people and liked telling stories that would resonate with their common experiences. Listening to him you do feel spoken to by a ruminative and intelligent man who has seen enough of life to be slow to judge and quick to smile.

There’s often a metaphorical raised eyebrow in the tone of his language and vocals but never a raised fist.

‘Old Toy Trains’ is a simple song that catches the magic of Christmas Eve – a magic that it is easy to lose or forget as we grow in supposed sophistication. Miller taps into the time- suspended feeling as we approach a great event and the hope we all have that all will be calm and all will be well.

Most of us will look back on a present we received when we were young children and reflect that no later gift has ever so perfectly matched our dreams than the toy train, drum, doll (or in my case) a cowboy outfit we received and cherished all those years ago.

Next, Billy Eckstine with the luxuriantly romantic, ‘Christmas Eve’.

Mr B was a pure class act. A handsome dandy who knew how very good he was as a singer and a bandleader. Billy’s rich, burnished voice lent dignity and drama to every song he ever recorded.

Listening to Billy here you are swept into a world where the brandy is five star and the Christmas lights twinkle all night on your perfect tree as you and your loved one dreamily dance by the flickering firelight.

I love the slow motion control of Eckstine’s vocal and the intoxicating musical arrangement courtesy of Lionel Newman.

Time to take the top off your favourite bottle and lean back to sink deep into this one.

Today’s poem extract comes from, ‘Christmas Day’ by Christopher Smart – an 18th Century English poet who pursued his vocation steadfastly despite spells in an asylum and prison.

‘Spinks and ouzles sing sublimely,
We too have a saviour born,
Whiter blossoms burst untimely
On the blest Mosaic thorn

God all-bounteous, all-creative,
Whom no ills from good dissuade,
Is incarnate and a native
Of the very world he made.’

©ThomHickey 2106

Another fabulous post and I hope you will join Thom and I every day from now until Christmas at the same time.. Thanks Sally

About Thom Hickey

Thom Hickey one of the blessed 50s baby boomer generation, was born in London into an Irish family and formally educated at catholic schools and Cambridge University. More importantly he was informally educated by the BBC, The Observer, The New Statesman and The New Yorker. His music professors were radio giants Charlie Gillett, John Peel and Emperor Rosko. The print columns of Richard Williams, Ian MacDonald and Tony Russell were religiously read and annotated.

Further intensive study was conducted at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Hope and Anchor, the 100 Club, Ronnie Scott’s and the Rainbow. Many investment portfolios were foresworn in favour of sourcing recorded treasures from the hallowed halls of HMV, Colletts, Tower and Virgin Records and mail order outfits galore.

He has a continuing belief that you can never watch too many Westerns or Ken Burns documentaries, read enough biographies about Samuel Beckett or Buster Keaton and that there is always just one more Bob Dylan bootleg he needs.

To finance his obsessions he has worked in financial recruitment, as a charity campaigner and been a senior investigator into complaints about the NHS. He now lives deep in the Surrey woods with his beautiful wife, graceful daughter and inspirational son.

Connect to Thom

Blog: https://theimmortaljukebox.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thomhickey55

Please head over to Thom’s to read his current posts… always something to enjoy.. thanks Sally

The previous Christmas Cornucopia can be found in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/thom-hickeys-cornucopia-of-christmas-art-music-and-poetry/

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Christmas Cornucopia -Day Three – #Elvis #John Betjeman by Thom Hickey


Christmas Cornucopia -Day Three by Thom Hickey

Featuring :

A Painting by Federico Barocci (1526 to 1612)

A Poem by John Betjeman (1906 to 1984)

Music by Bill Evans, Elvis Presley and Tish Hinojosa

Above all Christmas celebrates a birth.

And, there is nothing more intimate than the bond between a mother and child after a birth.

This intimacy is captured exquisitely by the Master of Urbino, Federico Barocci, in this Nativity which positively glows with the light of love.

federico-nativity

Bill Evans was the supreme lyric poet of the piano.

Listening to Bill’s unique sense of musical time and weight I find my spirit awakened, refreshed and released.

‘Blue in Green’ showcases the amazing precision and delicacy of his touch as a musician.

He is always instantly recognisable – the hallmark of true greatness.

This version of what has become a Jazz standard is from the Christmas 1959 session issued as, ‘Portrait in Jazz’.

You have to believe in telepathy when you hear Bill Evans play with Scott LaFaro (bass) and Paul Motion (drums)

This trio remains the benchmark for all piano trios.

Onward!

Onward our Sleigh proceeds cutting its way through the Christmas snow. Travel with me back in time now to Radio Recorders studios in Hollywood on September 7 1957.

A small group of men assemble to cut an album of Christmas songs. From Gadsden Tennessee the modestly brilliant guitarist Scotty Moore, from Memphis Tennessee the ever reliable bass player Bill Black and from Shreveport Louisiana the sprung-floor drummer D J Fontana.

Huddled together Gordon Stoker, Neal Matthews, Hoyt Hawkins and Hugh Jarrett – collectively the Jordanaires, a gospel quartet filled with the spirit. Today on piano sits Dudley Brooks.

Tuning up and swapping musicians banter they all look in the direction of a quietly spoken, respectful, hooded eyed, devestatingly handsome 22 year old from Tupelo Mississippi who has in the last few years recorded a series of records that seem to have shifted the axis of the planet.

In addition through his live shows and TV appearances he has set an entire generation ablaze to the marked discomfort of, ‘sensible’ folks who can’t bring themselves to approve of the shaky-legged, swivel-hipped singer who bears the ridiculous name of Elvis Aron Presley.

Rock and roll singer Elvis Presley performs outside to adoring fans on September 26, 1956 in his hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

As usual the group will warm up by accompanying Elvis as he runs through some of the gospel songs that have surrounded him through his youth and adolescence.

If there’s one thing Elvis believes in and knows through his own bodily experience it’s the power of music to raise, thrill and sustain the spirit.

Neither he nor anyone else could have guessed when he started out that he would possess an almost unique capacity to supercharge a song, to sing with such relaxed intensity and charisma that the listener felt lifted up and transported whether the song was secular or sacred.

Given a half decent song Elvis always sang his heart out and on many occasions the results were and remain nothing short of miraculous.

Like the Beatles and Bob Dylan the best of Elvis’ records are if anything under rated for all the millions of copies they have sold.

I really don’t have a fixed position on many of the great political and cultural issues of our times though I’m happy to debate with anyone. What I am certain of and will jump up on any table anywhere, anytime, to proclaim before any audience is that Elvis was, is, and will always remain the King!

Elvis’ Christmas album was a massive success and continues to sell today. The cut featured above, ‘Santa Claus Is Back In Town’ was written by the whip smart pairing of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller who couldn’t have write a lifeless song if they had tried.

Here they provide Elvis with an opportunity to demonstrate his charm, his rhythm and blues chops and the sheer swaggering physical presence his vocals could embody.

I love the tip of the hat to Elvis’ love of the Cadillac and the erotic promise of the whole song incarnated in the line, ‘Hang up your pretty stockings, turn off the light …. ‘.

Christmas brings many forms of celebration not least the chance for lovers to share some quality time together. And, I can think of no one better to serenade such times than Elvis.

We move now from a lover’s serenade to a mother’s lullaby. ‘A la Nanita Nana’ is a traditional song from Mexico sung here with characteristic tenderness and care by Tish Hinojosa.

Tish (short for Leticia) grew up, the thirteenth child, in a crowded household in San Antonio, Texas. Through her brothers and sisters and the crowded radio waves she absorbed and was inspired by music from her native Mexican culture and the folk, country and rock ‘n’ roll traditions which suffice the very air of Texas.

I recommend her CDs, ‘Culture Swing’ and, ‘Frontejas’ for those of you inclined to further listening.

The historical facts of Jesus’ birth remain shrouded in the mysteries of antiquity. However, I think we can be sure mothers nursing their new born child have always sung songs to soothe the babe just exposed to the blooming buzzing confusion of this world of ours.

The first sound we hear as we grow in our mother’s womb is the beating of her heart and hers is the first face we come to recognise in those initial hours and days of life.

Similarly, our first sense of the musicality of language comes from the sound of our mother reassuring us that we are loved and all is well. If we are lucky we will carry this message with us throughout the whole of our lives.

I have no doubt that Mary, though she had much to ponder in her heart, will have sung to her precious babe a song that could we but hear it would sound very like, ‘A la Nanita Nana’.

Today’s poem is, ‘Christmas’ by John Betjeman a poet who managed to combine popularity with real poetic achievement.

And is it true? And is it true?
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass Window’s hue,
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a child on earth for me?

… No carolling in the frosty air,
Nor all the steeping-shaking bells
Can with this simple truth compare –
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.’

©Thom Hickey 2016

My thanks to Thom for another informative and entertaining post that shares the elements of Christmas through the arts.

About Thom Hickey

Thom Hickey one of the blessed 50s baby boomer generation, was born in London into an Irish family and formally educated at catholic schools and Cambridge University. More importantly he was informally educated by the BBC, The Observer, The New Statesman and The New Yorker. His music professors were radio giants Charlie Gillett, John Peel and Emperor Rosko. The print columns of Richard Williams, Ian MacDonald and Tony Russell were religiously read and annotated.

Further intensive study was conducted at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Hope and Anchor, the 100 Club, Ronnie Scott’s and the Rainbow. Many investment portfolios were foresworn in favour of sourcing recorded treasures from the hallowed halls of HMV, Colletts, Tower and Virgin Records and mail order outfits galore.

He has a continuing belief that you can never watch too many Westerns or Ken Burns documentaries, read enough biographies about Samuel Beckett or Buster Keaton and that there is always just one more Bob Dylan bootleg he needs.

To finance his obsessions he has worked in financial recruitment, as a charity campaigner and been a senior investigator into complaints about the NHS. He now lives deep in the Surrey woods with his beautiful wife, graceful daughter and inspirational son.

Connect to Thom

Blog: https://theimmortaljukebox.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thomhickey55

The other posts in the Christmas Cornucopia can be found in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/thom-hickeys-cornucopia-of-christmas-art-music-and-poetry/

Thom will be here every day until Christmas Day…but please head over to his blog to read his current posts… always something to enjoy.. thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Christmas Cornucopia : Second Day by Thom Hickey


Welcome to the second day of Thom Hickey’s tribute to Christmas and a true cornucopia of delights from art by Fra Angelico to a Cajun Christmas.. same time every day until Christmas Day…

Christmas Cornucopia – Second Day by Thom Hickey.

featuring:

A Painting by Fra Angelico (1395 to 1455)

A poem by U A Fanthorpe (1929 to 2009)

Music by Eartha Kitt, Harry Fontenot and Gustav Mahler sung by Kahleen Ferrier.

Today’s painting by Fra Angelico has long haunted my imagination since I first saw it in The Convent of San Marco in Florence.

It is a representation of an epochal event, The Annunciation, which holds human time and eternity in perfect balance.

fra-angelico-annuncition

When Kathleen Ferrier recorded, ‘Das Lied von der Erde’ the shadow of death was looming over her.

This is music making of the very highest order.

Here Kathleen Ferrier does not so much perform a song as become the song.

The rare emotional reach of her extraordinary voice bringing flesh and spirit to Mahler’s masterwork touches something very deep and unnameable within humanity.

Our sleigh moves on from yesterday sliding us forward on our Christmas journey.

Today we start with a song from an authentic show business legend – Miss Eartha Kitt and her classic, slinkily sensuous 1953 recording, ‘Santa Baby’.

Eartha performs the Springer brothers and Joan Javitt’s song in her trademark knowing style. As the song progresses Eartha makes a series of increasingly outrageous demands on Santa’s generosity.

All she wants is a sable, a convertible (light blue), a yacht, the deed to a platinum mine (gold being so common), a duplex, Tiffany jewellery and a ring (64 carat for sure).

Eartha’s vocal here supported by Henri Rene and his orchestra is a study in practiced come hither allure. The cynical lyric is caressed as she reels in our attention.

Seeing her perform the song live is to see a siren setting a song ablaze with the flames licking around the mesmerised audience.

Everything Eartha did carried a charge of the exotic – she looked, moved and spoke like no one else building on her black, Cherokee and White heritage and dance training to create a unique image that demanded the audience’s deference and worship.

Orson Welles famously called her the most exciting woman in the world and while others of her era like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor might have taken issue with that claim they too would surely have admired the sheer dramatic daring of Eartha’s regal performance of, ‘Santa Baby’.

Come on Santa – hurry down the chimney and don’t forget the sable.

Fr Josef Mohr wrote a poem in 1816 he called, ‘Stille Nacht’. Two years later on Christmas Eve 1818 with a midnight mass in prospect he decided to visit his friend Franz Gruber a choirmaster and organist to see if there was any chance of turning, ‘Stille Nacht’ from a poem into a carol to perform that night.

Mohr had to walk several kilometres to se his friend who set to work with such vigour and inspiration that an arrangement for guitar and voice of, ‘Stille Nacht’ was ready as the two set off to Fr Mohr’s church in Oberndorf.

So, in the cold of an Austrian night on Christmas Eve 1818 the carol, ‘Stille Nacht’ or, ‘Silent Night’ as it is known in the English speaking world was sung for the very first time.

Neither of the writers or the congregation could possible have known that the heartfelt simplicity of, ‘Silent Night’ contained a spiritual power and attractiveness that would go on to make it perhaps the most loved of all church based Christmas songs.

Congregations all over the world this Christmas Eve will echo the words and melody created nearly two hundred years ago and find that it’s magic never fades.

There is no counting the number of versions available of, ‘Silent Night’. The one I have chosen to showcase here is by a gorgeous Cajun version by accordionist Harry Fontenot.

I love the rustic simplicity of this version – it seems to me the kind of sound that would not have sounded out of place in a stable with animals and shepherds gathered around to witness an event that was at once entirely commonplace – the birth of a child.

And yet all present had the sense that this birth was something very special that would remake the world for all eternity.

‘Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, all is bright ……….

The poem providing our extract today is the short but immensely wise, ‘BC : AD’ by the much under rated U A Fanthorpe.

‘… And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect

Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.’

©ThomHickey 2016

About Thom Hickey

Thom Hickey one of the blessed 50s baby boomer generation, was born in London into an Irish family and formally educated at catholic schools and Cambridge University. More importantly he was informally educated by the BBC, The Observer, The New Statesman and The New Yorker. His music professors were radio giants Charlie Gillett, John Peel and Emperor Rosko. The print columns of Richard Williams, Ian MacDonald and Tony Russell were religiously read and annotated.

Further intensive study was conducted at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Hope and Anchor, the 100 Club, Ronnie Scott’s and the Rainbow. Many investment portfolios were foresworn in favour of sourcing recorded treasures from the hallowed halls of HMV, Colletts, Tower and Virgin Records and mail order outfits galore.

He has a continuing belief that you can never watch too many Westerns or Ken Burns documentaries, read enough biographies about Samuel Beckett or Buster Keaton and that there is always just one more Bob Dylan bootleg he needs.

To finance his obsessions he has worked in financial recruitment, as a charity campaigner and been a senior investigator into complaints about the NHS. He now lives deep in the Surrey woods with his beautiful wife, graceful daughter and inspirational son.

Connect to Thom

Blog: https://theimmortaljukebox.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thomhickey55

Please head over to Thom’s to read his current posts… always something to enjoy.. thanks Sally