We are Christmas music geeks here, and have oodles of favorite albums. I love some of the moody acoustic arrangements of Windham Hill, and the rowdy stuff of pop/rock versions, 50’s crooners, Texas swing, black gospel, and the more formal John Rutter or the Cambridge singers. We often play Celtic seasonal stuff, some jazz, and yearly lament that Bruce Cockburn’s excellent Christmas is out of print. And I hope you have listened to at least the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah oratorio at least once this season…
Yet, somehow, the eccentric performance artist new baroque folk troubadour Sufjan Stevens and his gonzo banjo, xylophone and tromboned band’s Christmas boxed set nearly moves me to tears. Well, okay, with frazzled nerves and heavy heart this time of year—good news amidst such a needy world—it does move me to tears.
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This cut becomes rowdy, and, yes, strangely moving. (I don’t know who made the video.) What is your favorite line? (“Hijack the snowplow”?) Is there any other Christmas song that mentions K-mart, the tower of Babel, and “your sisters new bangs, she cut them herself”?) Come on, Let’s Boogie to the Elf Dance.
Here, he does a low-fi, home-made version of Joy to the World. When the voice goes unusually up just a bit on the word “king” I get tingles. The quiet falsetto fade out reminds me of some nearly eerie homesick thing; Christ comes to dwell here, home, indeed.
Speaking of home, it figures into this upbeat goofball of a song (how many instruments can you count in there?) and the hipster animation shows the fam visiting grandma who lives alone. Telling her of Jesus also means they must head home, to be together. This, I think, was his own video greeting card a few years back: Put the Lights On the Tree
And, on the same album, this quiet version of Holy Holy Holy. A lovely holiday video, too. As we celebrate the baby Jesus, it should be a large reminder of the “blessed Trinity.” If you are ambitious, listen to his stunning version of Come Thou Font of Every Blessing; it will make you weak in the knees. Now, that’s how to have a merry Christmas.