Facebook has been facing criticism for the spread of “fake news” and it often has ads for things you just bought or aren’t interested in ever buying; but occasionally it also turns up some little treasures that make you smile. Two musical items popped up in the Cafe’s feed this week that we’d like to share.
The first one was a resurrection of blog post from a year ago from YA author Blair Thornburgh (Is Blair Thornburgh your real name? Very yes.) which is his Definitive and Absolute list of the only Good Christmas Carols. Do check out his amusing and (I think) pretty good list. Outlining his criteria he begins;
“I love Christmas carols. HOWEVER: I do NOT love what most of the idiot world considers to be a Christmas carol. Songs about sleighs, Santa, sugarplums, etc., are NOT carols, they are garbage that deserves to rot on the side of the street like so much crumpled wrapping paper.
No, the truly best Christmas carols fall into at least one of the following categories:
1. Songs in Latin
2. Songs about food
3. Songs about Hell and/or avoidance thereof
4. Songs about decidedly non-canonical adventures of Jesus, Mary, and/or Joseph
5. Songs that use the word “flesh”
6. Good King Wenceslas
Bonus points are awarded if the song was clearly hastily Christianized with a few macaronic verses or if it sounds good played on the bagpipe.”
Some of his choices include:
God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman
This is the only mainstream Christmas carol that mentions Satan, and IN THE FIRST VERSE, no less. (It was also my favorite as a kid for this self-same reason.) This is metal as heck.
The Cherry Tree Carol
If you do not know the lyrics to this one, go look them up, for verily they are BONKERS. A preggo Mary is wandering around and sees a bunch of delicious cherries growing on a tree. Being incapacitated due to her expectatory state, she asks Joseph to pick some for her, but he’s like “eh, why don’t you let the FATHER OF YOUR CHILD pick them, slut” and then Jesus FROM INSIDE THE WOMB commands the tree to reach its branches down to Mary. I’m about 70% sure this didn’t actually happen in the Bible, but it probably should have.
The Boar’s Head Carol
Almost the absolute best carol ever written. Peasants carting around a dead pig noggin and then quickly remembering that Christmas is about CHRIST and working in some Latin bits. Phrases like “Let us servire cantico!” definitely sound like they came out after a few too many skins of wine, and I am 100% okay with that. Christmas is about winter and winter is about eating (and don’t be one of those “well Jesus was probably REALLY born in April” people, unless you’re going to use that point to tell Christina Rossetti she’s full of it with her “Bleak Midwinter” bullsh).
Good King Wenceslas
So when I was in high school we used to sing this en masse in alternating verses using the following breakdown:
King Wenceslas: Boys
The page: Girls
But apparently they’ve done away with that tradition and now they sing it thusly:
King Wenceslas: Whoever
The page: Ehhhh
This is treason! Also, I’d always sing the boy parts anyway, because nothing is better than gruffly intoning BRING ME FLESH AND BRING ME WINE like you’re some forgotten minor monarch.
The second treasure that Facebook offered is a kind of musical Advent calendar (but with Christmas songs) arranged and recorded by Abigail Kempson; a capella (and doing her own harmony!). Not every song would meet Blair’s criteria above, but all are well done and worth a listen. Abigail is the sister of Baritone and 2015 Grammy nominee, Dan Kempson – so this is coming from a member of an apparently crazy-talented family.
In the Bleak Mid-Winter
O Come, O come, Emmanuel