Yule Tune: Christmas Alphabet (The McGuire Sisters)

This very sweet Christmas carol is sweeter than a Christmas cookie — so sweet, in fact,  that you’ll need an ice cold glass of milk to wash it down.   The McGuire Sisters — the same sister act that sang “Sincerely” — are the voices behind  “Christmas Alphabet.”

Oh, and after listening, remember to brush your teeth.

Yule Tune: Here We Come A-wassailing (Orla, David, Meav, & Mark)

At a recent Christmas dinner — an annual tradition for Joe and me to get together with friends Cathey and Robert and Judy and Michael — there was a brief discussion about the Christmas carols that never get airplay on those Christmas 24/7 radio stations.

There are, in fact, lots of carols that never see the light of day, much less a turntable.  Among them is “Here We Come A-wassailing.”   Perhaps the carol fell out of popularity because, sadly, people really don’t go a-wassailing — or a-caroling — anymore.

A few centuries ago, in England, locals would go door-to-door singing Christmas carols, hoping for some food, a penny, or a drink from the homeowner’s wassail bowl, which usually held a brew of hot ale, apples, mead, and spices — just enough alcohol to warm up the wassailers.

During my own childhood, I have memories of neighborhood teenagers knocking on the front door and singing Christmas carols — and my parents would give them some money and Christmas cookies.  Today, though, caroling seems to be relegated to indoor locations and radio stations. Door-to-door caroling is a thing of Christmas past — perhaps because of lack of time, lack of energy, or an abundance of fear.

And that’s really a shame — because “Here We Come A-wassailing” is catchy and bouncy and rousing.  It’s a carol that’s built for radio play.  Don’t believe me?  Click play and listen to Orla and Meav of Celtic Woman, “American Idol” alumna David Archuleta, country singer Mark Wills, some fiddles, and the bodhran, or Irish drum.

Yule Tune: Adeste Fideles (Luciano Pavarotti)

Long before trios of tenors toured the globe, there was Luciano Pavarotti.  There was also this 1978 performance at Montreal’s Notre Dame Cathedral.  I was a young teenager when this Christmas special aired on television, and it was my first exposure to opera.  From the opening note, I was mesmerized and moved by the passion and richness of Pavarotti’s voice, and of the cathedral itself.  Somehow, the combination of the two makes “Adeste Fideles” seem even more holy.

Yule Tune: Holiday Grab Bag (Lawrence Welk & Perry Como)

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic tonight — probably because each Sunday night, I’m aways reminded of family dinners at my grandmother’s house in Queens, NY.  Once all of the dishes were hand-washed and dried, we used to sit in the living room (on the sofa and floor) to watch “The Wonderful World of Disney,” “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, ” and “The Lawrence Welk Show.”  If I remember correctly, there was a lot of eye rolling at that last show, but something has changed in the passing decades.

Looking back at the clips, there is something rather sweet and, yes, comical about the show.  Maybe it’s the familiar faces or the corniness or the remembered aromas of my grandmother’s cooking, but Mr. Welk and crew certainly brings a smile to my face.

And if that wasn’t enough nostalgia for one night, how about this one from Perry Como.  Pay attention to the pop-ups and remember to wait for Santa Claus.

I couldn’t let this post end without one last moment with Lawrence Welk.

Yule Tune: White Christmas (Diana Krall)

Autumn Joy in Snow

Autumn Joy in snow.

This morning, I woke up to snow — and while I may not be a fan of the white stuff, even I must admit that there is something exciting, something magical about snow at this time of year.

Ivy in Snow

Ivy in snow.

On Long Island, a white Christmas is always iffy.  More often than not, if there should be any snow, it’s usually washed away by rain or a burst of mild temperatures.  Our snowy time arrives after Christmas.  Still, the iffiness does nothing to dampen our hope and excitement that this year we will have a “White Christmas.”

Pebbles in snow.

Pebbles in snow.

While many performers have put their own stamp on this Christmas standard, I’m always drawn to Diana Krall’s version.  Her voice, sultry and intimate, feels like a warm blanket — kind of like the one that’s wrapped around me right now, as I watch sugary powder dust and cover everything.

Bench in snow.

Bench in snow.

Oak leaf  in snow.

Oak leaf in snow.

Hydrangea in snow.

Hydrangea in snow.

Chair in snow.

Chair in snow.

Oak leaves looking like cookies dusted with sugar.

Oak leaves looking like cookies dusted with sugar.

Yule Tune: The Christmas Song (Ella Fitzgerald)

Snow on leaves

It’s been a beast of a week.  After locking up your office, you’ve bundled yourself against the cold.

Clutching your coat tight around your chest, you make your way home, grumbling about the piles from yesterday’s snowfall and how the city’s grime has already turned winter white into a dull gray.

If there could be any good fortune on a night like this, it’s that the buildings on the cross street are blocking the winter wind.  The wind, you realize, is just a few yards away, waiting for you to turn the corner.

You’ve reached the end of the street and it’s time to walk uptown.  You brace yourself, but it doesn’t do any good.  The northwest wind slaps you full across the face, squeezing frozen tears from your eyes.  You worry that it’s not just nipping at your nose, but gripping it and ripping it, as well.

Stray pages of some newspaper become wrapped around your legs, as you lean into winter, hunching up your shoulders and sinking in your neck, a gloved hand pressing your scarf to your nose and mouth.  You’re thinking you need an oasis — a bit of warmth in this frozen urban land.

And there it is, sitting in the shadows between the glow of two streetlights.  You’ve walked this route hundreds of time and can’t recall seeing this place, now decorated with a string of colored lights and a wreath.

You step inside to a muted interior and all at once you’re in 2013 and 1953.  The coat check girl, platinum hair swept up in a retro ‘do and tattooed shoulders above a glittery red dress with white faux fur trim, smiles at you with painted red lips.  As she takes your coat, she says, “Why, you’re just in time for the first act.”

It takes a few seconds for your eyes to adjust to the dark and smoky interior, to take in the assorted souls at the bar and seated at small tables close to the stage.  You find a place and ask for a drink.

The band steps out, and the first notes sound familiar — a carol performed by so many.  A woman steps up to the microphone — and very soon, her voice is as warm and velvety and soothing as the amber liquid in your glass.

I wonder who will be taking the stage

tomorrow night?