Tag Archives: Happy Holidays

Non-traditional Holiday Tunes

This time of year it’s hard to go out into the world without being bombarded by holiday music; whether you’re a fan or not, it can get tiring hearing the same tunes over and over again. As a balm for the holiday music assault, our music and film specialists at the Main Carnegie Library offer these suggestions for seasonally appropriate music that’s a little off the beaten path. Read their suggestions below!



Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” / James Brown

Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin” / Albert King

Back Door Santa” / Clarence Carter

Purple Snowflakes” / Marvin Gaye

A Five Pound Box of Money” / Pearl Bailey

Christmas in Jail” / The Youngsters

I’m actually a fan of holiday classics like Nat King Cole’s Christmas album. But when I need a change of pace, or want to put my dancing shoes on, nobody gets me in the holiday mood like James Brown. We also have a lot of soul holiday compilations, available on CD or through Freegal, with hidden gems like Pearl Bailey’s “A Five Pound Box of Money.”




Hansel and Gretel / Engelbert Humperdinck

Three Suites / Duke Ellington

Though Hansel and Gretel does not have a Christmas theme, it is often staged by many opera companies, including the Metropolitan Opera, at this time of year.  It does have gingerbread cookies… well, ok, children turned into cookies.  The music is fantastic and instead of Santa you get a creepy witch.

If you think Tchaikovsky needs a little swing, then Duke Ellington’s “Nutcracker Suite” from his album Three Suites  is for you.  Ellington and Pittsburgh’s own Billy Strayhorn put their stamp on a holiday classic.  Try the “Sugar Rum Cherry” track for a sample.



rundmc  diehard

Christmas in Hollis / Run D.M.C.

“Christmas in Hollis” is a cheerful song about the benefits of not stealing Santa’s wallet – though now that I think about it, the song never does tell us how Santa got his driver’s license back (it must have been a Christmas Miracle). It also mentions macaroni and cheese, and is featured in my favorite Christmas movie of all time, Die Hard.




I made my feelings known about the month of December in my Deathcember blog post a few years back, but I am still happy to help you find either the wholesome Christmas with Perry Como album or a blasphemous album by Mercyful Fate.




My Kind of Christmas / Christina Aguilera

Whenever I need a break from traditional Christmas song fare, I listen to the fabulous remix version of Mel Torme’s “Christmas Song” (you know…”chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”) as conceived by Christina Aguilera on her My Kind of Christmas CD!  It’s a thrilling combination of driving rhythm track with a smooth, slow melodic line on top! How about combining a traditional Latin text with a non-traditional 20th century poly-tonality (different keys + major and minor all at the same time), sung by a choir?  Check out Daniel Pinkham’s joyous “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” from his Christmas Cantata with the Washington Chorus and National Capital Brass on CLP’s Naxos Music Library streaming site.  Listen for the tremendous high B in the tenor section on the last chord!  




Traditional Christmas Carols / Pete Seeger

American Folk Songs for Christmas / Mike, Peggy, and Penny Seeger

These CDs include seasonal folk songs collected and arranged by Ruth Crawford Seeger which were first published in a songbook called American Folk Songs for Christmas in 1953. Ruth’s children, Mike, Peggy, and Penny Seeger recorded a double CD of these carols (released in 1989). Ruth Crawford Seeger’s step-son Pete chose three songs from her collection for his 1967 recording of folk carols. 61 years since the songbook was published, the selections and arrangements remain fresh and uplifting.




Fairytale of New York / The Pogues

This story of a man spending Christmas Eve in the drunk tank, thinking about a relationship torn apart by alcoholism and addiction, is one of the most popular Christmas songs in the UK. Performed in the style of an Irish folk song, the duet is sung by the Pogues’ lead singer, Shane MacGowan, and Kirsty MacColl, daughter of legendary English folksinger Ewan MacColl.

~ Happy holidays from the Music, Film & Audio Department


Filed under Uncategorized

With Apologies to Clement Moore

Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith, 1912

‘Tis the night before traveling, and all ’round the town
Not a dry leaf is stirring, the garden is brown.
The sweaters we packed in the suitcase with love,
In hopes that Jack Frost will descend from above.

The children are nestled too warm in their beds,
While visions of snow angels dance in their heads.
And mamma in her t-shirt, and I with no cap,
Sit in the kitchen and plan our attack.

In the morning we’ll rise, board the 28X—
Will the airport be crowded? I dread these long treks.
Away to real winter we’ll fly in a flash.
To northwest Minnesota—should we bring more cash?

Moonlight on the lawn looks like new-fallen snow
But it’s 60 degrees in December, you know!
When we get to the airport, I hope I don’t weaken,
I’m feeling quite nervous and ill. You’re a beacon!

Will the plane ride be easy, lively and quick?
We’re flying Southwest piloted by St. Nick.
More rapid than reindeer, they’ll serve us hot tea.
Remember the old days, when breakfasts were free?

[Next morning] We’re off! All is calm, all is bright.
The bus isn’t crowded, I think we’re alright.
To the top of the hill! To the top of the sky!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away . . . sigh.

We’re landing already. Aunt Bea will be circling
The parking garage, and with Bing she will sing
“White Christmas.” It’s snowing! I bet the pond’s frozen.
How soon can we skate? Do you think we’ll see penguins?

And then in a twinkling, we’re here at the farm.
The house smells of cabbage, roast turkey, and glögg.
As I take off my boots, and am looking around,
From the yard Uncle Edmund comes in with a bound.

He’s dressed all in wool, from his head to his foot,
His clothes are all tarnished with pitch and with soot.
A bundle of wood he has wrapped in his arms
Split for the old stove—Aunt Bea’s cooking charms.

The kids want to hurry, get out in the snow.
Hey now! Bundle up, since it’s twenty below.
It’s too cold to snow, but that looks like a flake.
May we build a bonfire on the shore of the lake?

Soon gathered at table, it’s time for some supper.
Thank goodness we’re all here, raise praise for each other,
And lift up your glass with a toast of good cheer
Happiest holidays, brightest New Year!



Filed under Uncategorized