Wednesday, 24 December 2014

A Vintage Christmas Carol

It's Christmas Eve, which must mean we're long overdue for another selection of festive ditties from down the years!  Well, you didn't think I would forget what is fast becoming an Eclectic Ephemera Christmas tradition, did you?  Once again I have delved into my Christmas music collection and scoured the dusty corners of YouTube to bring you some lesser-known Yuletide tunes, plus an extra special treat.

The [now rare] double CD Vintage Christmas Cracker, which I was fortunate enough to obtain before it became rarer than turkeys' teeth and which has formed the basis of my last four annual posts on the subject, once again provides a number of songs - but this time with a slight difference.  I'm sadly running out of dance and swing band versions of classic Christmas tunes so by way of a change this year I'll be focussing on some of the more traditional choral pieces that were also recorded during the 1930s.

"Uncle Mac's Christmas Carols" is a splendid collection of carols, some less well-known than others, sung by St Brandon's CDS Choir in Bristol.  With wonderful introductions by announcer Derek McCulloch, this medley was broadcast on the B.B.C. Light Programme in November 1939.

This version of Sleep, My Saviour, Sleep was a best seller in October 1932, when it was recorded by a ensemble singers calling themselves "The Celebrity Quartet".  They were:  Isobel Baillie (soprano), Muriel Brunskill (contralto), Heddle Nash (tenor) and Norman Allin (bass).

A Christmas carol without a boy soprano is like Christmas Day without turkey (says the man having beef).  Master Dennis Barthel takes the vocal here, with Herbert Lawson on the organ, at an unspecified location in London, October 1930.

John McCormack was a famous Irish tenor who was very popular on both sides of the Atlantic from c.1905-1930.  Here he performs O Come, All Ye Faithful in (sung in Latin as Adestes, Fideles), recorded in Camden, New Jersey almost one hundred years ago - 31st March 1915.

With a great deal of festive talk focussing on the centenary of the "Christmas Truce" on the Western Front, on the first Christmas Eve of the Great War (and British supermarket Sainsbury's moving and very well done Christmas advert) it is only right and fitting that Silent Night should feature here.  All the more so that it should be the German version Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht - to my ears as beautiful, if not more so, than in English - that would have drifted over the trenches one hundred years ago, to be answered in kind by the British soldiers with the result we know.  This version was recorded in Berlin, in September 1932, by the incongruously-named close-harmony group "The Comedy Harmonists".

A few years ago I featured two versions of Winter Wonderland, both recorded within a month of each other at the end of 1934 when the song itself was only months old, including the very first recording made for RCA by Richard Kimber and His Orchestra (the other version being Ted Weems').  At the time I rued the fact that the third, most successful version - performed by Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians in the same year - was the only one not on YouTube.  Well, now it is!  I'd not heard this arrangement before - quite jolly, don't you think?

Finally, I happened across this lovely video featuring everyone's favourite frog, singing one of my favourite songs from one of my favourite Christmas films - The Muppet Christmas Carol!  Funnily enough on Channel 4 earlier this evening (although I will be watching my old uncut *shakes fist at Disney executives* VHS copy later).  I can do no better than to echo the sentiment therein and wish you all, readers, followers, visitors, friends - a very Merry Christmas!

1 comment:

  1. Ha! I too shake my fist at the Disney executives. We still have a video recorder solely so I can watch the TRUE version of Muppets Christmas Carol.

    Thank you for sharing the music - as ever, it's educational and entertaining!


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