And there’s a hand, my trusty friend.

As we’re heading to greener climes let me be among the first to wish you a Happy New Year. This concluding (twelfth) seasonal selection is performed by those who brought in the first selection, Yo Yo Ma and Chris Botti.  With a melody of unknown origin (i.e. “traditional”) the auspicious words Dona Nobis Pacem (“Grant Us Peace”) are derived from the Latin Mass.

Dona Nobis Pacem

 Dona nobis pacem

Pacem

Dona nobis pacem

Dona nobis pacem

Dona nobis pacem

Dona nobis pacem

Dona nobis pacem

Also set to the tune of a “traditional” folk song “Auld Lang Syne” was written by Robert Burns in 1788. The Scots title may be translated into English literally as “old long since”, or more colloquially as “for the sake of times, long since gone.”  Either way, my jo, “We’ll tak a cup ‘o kindess yet!”

LISTEN TO THIS SELECTION – Happy New Year!

Auld Lang Syne

 Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo (my dear)

For auld lang syne

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet

For auld lang syne

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!

And surely I’ll be mine!

And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet

For auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my jo (my dear)

For auld lang syne

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet

For auld lang syne

We twa hae run about the braes

And pu’d the gowans fine

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit

Sin auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my jo (my dear)

For auld lang syne

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet

For auld lang syne

 We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn

Frae morning sun till dine

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

Sin auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my jo (my dear)

For auld lang syne

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet

For auld lang syne

 And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere (friend)!

And gie’s a hand o’ thine !

And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught

For auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my jo (my dear)

For auld lang syne

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet

For auld lang syne

Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think

Formed in Coventry, England in 1977 and known for their ‘60s era “rude boy” look replete with mohair suits, loafers and pork pie hats, The Specials were commonly referred to as a “2 Tone Ska Revival Band” that combined “danceable ska beat with punk’s energy and attitude” and there is something rather compelling about the version of this song found on their 1980 album, “More Specials”.

While Doris Day, Tommy Dorsey, Bing Crosby and (later) Prince Buster also had hits with it, perhaps the most popular recording remains the one put forth by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians in 1949, the same year it was written by Carl Sigman and Herb Magidson.  No matter which version you prefer, the advice remains stellar as the sun begins to set on yet another year.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Saturday 29 December 

Enjoy Yourself

 Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think

Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink

The years go by, as quickly as you wink

Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself

It’s later than you think

 Hello, I’m Terry

And I’m going to enjoy myself first

It’s good to be wise when you’re young

‘Cause you can only be young but the once

Enjoy yourself and have lots of fun

So glad I live life longer than you’ve ever done

 Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think

Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink

The years go by, as quickly as you wink

Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself,

It’s later than you think

 Never right, yes I know

Get wisdom, get knowledge and understanding

These three, were given free by the maker

Go to school, learn the rules, don’t be no faker

It’s not wise for you to be a footstool

 Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think

Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink

The years go by, as quickly as you wink

Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself,

It’s later than you think

Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think

Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink

The years go by, as quickly as you wink

Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself,

It’s later than you think

Time has come today

Born and raised in Mississippi, Joe, Willie, Lester and George Chambers first honed their skills as choir members in their community’s Baptist church in the 1950s.  But as The Chambers Brothers they became part of the ‘60s wave that integrated blues and gospel with psychedelia.

Initially released in 1966, a timelier version of this song was featured as an 11-minute track on the brothers’ third album of the same name in late 1967.  Subsequently released as an abbreviated single it spent five weeks at  (hmmm) Number 11 on the Billboard charts, just missing the Top Ten.  As we begin to close out yet another year…“tik tok”…let’s not forget that much celebrated directive… “More cowbell!”

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Friday 28 December

Time Has Come Today

 Time has come today

Young hearts can go their way

Can’t put it off another day

I don’t care what others say

They say we don’t listen anyway

Time has come today

(Hey)

 Oh.

The rules have changed today

(Hey)

I have no place to stay

(Hey)

I’m thinking about the subway

(Hey)

My love has flown away

(Hey)

My tears have come and gone

(Hey)

Oh my Lord, I have to roam

(Hey)

I have no home

(Hey)

I have no home

(Hey)

 Now the time has come

(Time)

There’s no place to run

(Time)

I might get burned up by the sun

(Time)

But I had my fun

(Time)

I’ve been loved and put aside

(Time)

I’ve been crushed by the tumbling tide

(Time)

And my soul has been psychedelicized

(Time)

 (Time)

Now the time has come

(Time)

There are things to realize

(Time)

Time has come today

(Time)

Time has come today

(Time)

 Time [x11]

 Oh

Now the time has come

(Time)

There’s no place to run

(Time)

I might get burned up by the sun

(Time)

But I had my fun

(Time)

I’ve been loved and put aside

(Time)

I’ve been crushed by tumbling tide

(Time)

And my soul has been psychedelicized

(Time)

(Time)

Now the time has come

(Time)

There are things to realize

(Time)

Time has come today

(Time)

Time has come today

(Time)

 Time [x4]

Yeah

 

When I was young my heart was young then, too

Born in 1945, Morna Anne Murray, Companion of the Order of Canada, started life as the town doctor’s daughter in the coal mining community of Springhill, Nova Scotia.  Like many others she took voice and music lessons as a young girl, but went on to earn a degree in Physical Education at University of New Brunswick and became a Phys Ed teacher in PEI.

However, while at college, Murray had auditioned as a singer for a CBC TV program called Singalong Jubilee and although not offered the position, she received a call from the producers for a second audition a full two years later and this time landed a spot.

Murray left her teaching position and in time moved to Toronto after landing a solo record deal in 1968. Her first album, “What About Me” also featured her first single (of the same name) and was a substantial hit in Canada, but it was her second album “This Way is My Way” in 1969 that featured the song that made her an international star.

Written by Canadian songwriter Gene MacLellan (who also wrote “Put Your Hand in the Hand”), “Snowbird” reached Number 23 on the UK Singles Chart and topped the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart for six weeks (it was Number 8 on the Singles Chart) becoming the first American Gold record ever awarded to a Canadian female solo artist.

Having since sold more than 54 million albums, Anne Murray is often cited as the woman who paved the way for other Canadian female success stories such as Céline Dion, Sarah McLachlan and Shania Twain.  A longtime golf enthusiast, she also made history in 2003 when she became the first woman to score a hole-in-one at the Kaluhyat Golf Course’s Par 3, 17th hole in upstate New York.  A few years later she was widely cited as the world’s best female celebrity golfer.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Thursday 27 December 

Snowbird

 Beneath this snowy mantle cold and clean

The unborn grass lies waiting for its coat to turn to green

The snowbird sings the song he always sings

And speaks to me of flowers that will bloom again in spring

When I was young my heart was young then, too

Anything that it would tell me, that’s the thing that I would do

But now I feel such emptiness within

For the thing that I want most in life’s the thing that I can’t win

 Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

The one I love forever is untrue

And if I could you know that I would

Fly away with you

The breeze along the river seems to say

That he’ll only break my heart again should I decide to stay

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow

Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

The one I love forever is untrue

And if I could you know that I would

Fly away with you

Yeah, if I could I know that I would fl-y-y-y-y away with you

When the snow lay ’round about, deep and crisp and even

Now observed throughout much of the British Commonwealth, there are competing theories about the origins of Boxing Day.  Most likely the name comes from the tradesmen’s custom of collecting “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Yuletide as thanks for good service throughout the year.

This tradition dates back to the days when the servants of wealthy landowners were allowed to take the day off to visit their families, and it was customary for each to receive a box containing gifts, bonuses and leftover food.

But an even older, European Boxing Day tradition stretches back to the Middle Ages, where in addition to those in service, money and gifts were given to those in need, with metal boxes placed outside churches to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen.

That’s where “Good King Wenceslas” enters the picture.  As an English “Second Day of Christmas” Carol it was written by John Mason Neale and Thomas Helmore in the 1850s based on the Tenth Century legend of Saint Wenceslas I, Duke of Bohemia.  Wenceslas encouraged his page to stay the course against the frigid weather by following his footprints, step for step, through the deep snow so that he could give alms to a poor peasant during the Feast of Stephen.

Born in Manitoba in 1957, soprano Loreena Isabel Irene McKennitt, is a singer, composer, harpist, accordionist and pianist who writes, records and performs world music with Celtic and Middle Eastern themes.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S BOXING DAY SELECTION 

Good King Wenceslas

 Good King Wenceslas looked out

On the Feast of Stephen

When the snow lay ’round about

Deep and crisp and even

Brightly shone the moon that night

Though the frost was cruel

When a poor man came in sight

Gathering winter fuel

 Hither, page, and stand by me

If thou knows it, telling

Yonder peasant, who is he

Where and what his dwelling

Sire, he lives a good league hence

Underneath the mountain

Right against the forest fence

By Saint Agnes’ fountain

 Bring me flesh and bring me wine

Bring me pine-logs hither

Thou and I shall see him dine

When we bear them thither

Page and monarch, forth they went

Forth they went together

Through the rude wind’s wild lament

And the bitter weather

Sire, the night is darker now

And the wind blows stronger

Fails my heart, I know not how

I can go no longer

Mark my footsteps, my good my page

Tread thou in them boldly

Thou shall find the winter’s rage

Freeze thy blood less coldly

In his master’s step he trod

Where the snow lay dinted

Heat was in the very sod

Which the Saint had printed

Therefore, Christian men, be sure

Wealth or rank possessing

Ye, who now will bless the poor

Shall yourselves find blessing

 

And all the bells on earth shall ring

Merry Christmas.

Here we have a traditional English Christmas carol. A variant of the tune “Greensleeves,” the earliest printed version of “I Saw Three Ships” dates back to the 17th Century.

Although the lyrics mention the ships sailing into Bethlehem, the nearest body of water is the Dead Sea about 20 miles away (and there was never much shipping there either).

The reference probably originates with three ships that bore the purported relics of the Biblical Magi to Cologne Cathedral in the 12th Century.  Founded in San Francisco (circa 1978) and often referred to as an “Orchestra of Voices,”

Chanticleer has developed a major reputation for its interpretations of Renaissance music. The ensemble was named for the “clear singing rooster” in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”.

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Christmas Day

I Saw Three Ships

I saw three ships come sailing in

On Christmas day, on Christmas day

I saw three ships come sailing in

On Christmas day in the morning.

And what was in those ships all three?

On Christmas day, on Christmas day

And what was in those ships all three?

On Christmas day in the morning.

 Our Savior, Christ, and His Lady,

On Christmas day, on Christmas day

Our Savior, Christ, and His Lady,

On Christmas day in the morning.

Pray, whither sailed those ships all three?

On Christmas day, on Christmas day

Pray, whither sailed those ships all three?

On Christmas day in the morning.

O, they sailed to Bethlehem,

On Christmas day, on Christmas day

O, they sailed to Bethlehem,

On Christmas day in the morning.

And all the bells on earth shall ring,

On Christmas day, on Christmas day

And all the bells on earth shall ring,

On Christmas day in the morning.

And all the angels in Heaven shall sing,

On Christmas day, on Christmas day

And all the angels in Heaven shall sing,

On Christmas day in the morning.

And all the souls on earth shall sing,

On Christmas day, on Christmas day

And all the souls on earth shall sing,

On Christmas day in the morning.

Then let us all rejoice amain,

On Christmas day, on Christmas day

Then let us all rejoice amain,

On Christmas day in the morning.

Fast, the night is fading

Christmas Eve 1980 and it was the end of a long journey. With the next day off we’d driven a rental car up from the Negev Desert, where we were involved in the construction of a new airbase. Now the sky-blue Peugeot was perched on a rocky outcrop across the valley from Bethlehem.

After setting up the tent and throwing a blanket on the hood of the car to serve as a settee, we made martinis and, while the holiest of Christmas carols rose-up from the tape player, leaned back to watch night descend on yonder town; its lights shining ever-more brightly and our brains swirling in wonder…plus a trace of inebriation. Ultimately we reached the unanimous conclusion that it would be nice just to get a bit…closer.

The road near storied Shepherd’s Field (“on earth peace, goodwill toward men,”) was the only one open to traffic, so that’s where we parked before setting out on foot, using the massive neon star atop the Church of the Nativity as our beacon.  It was farther away than it appeared and it took a while to make it to the heavily guarded barricade surrounding Manger Square.  It took even longer to work our way to one of the fortified entranceways on either end where everyone was prodded and frisked twice by the hyper-vigilant  security detail.

In the square itself hoards of “Christmas Pilgrims” brushed (and shoved) elbows with a fascinating continuum of local characters. And while recorded music drifted from loudspeakers mounted somewhere above the neon, ubiquitous vendors hawked their postcards, religious icons and camelhair hats.  It also became apparent that many here had recently partaken in refreshment (and were on the lookout for more) from any number of cafes and restaurants tucked within the barricade.  Who were we to argue?

While the glasses clinked and the evening wore on a series of discordant but enthusiastic church choirs from all over Christendom took turns serenading the masses from an outdoor-stage.  Though most awaited the midnight mass, our goal was to find a way into the ancient Church of the Nativity, which wasn’t easy on such a singular evening when only special groups were allowed entry.

So we watched and waited until one came along, led by a tall, bespectacled pastor. The English matron bringing up the tail told us of their affiliation with the Anglican Cathedral of St. George in Jerusalem and shrugged when our Lisa, from North London, mentioned that she’d been a member of the Church of England for her entire life.

Seeing this as our chance we fell into their queue while it wended around the side of the boxy church, passed armed guards and proceeded through a dingy courtyard into the large, candlelit nave.  When the pastor came to shepherd-in his flock from the rear he looked at us over the tops of his glasses and never said a word.

“Our” group worked its way across the nave to the High Altar, where stairs led below into the Grotto of the Nativity.  We silently followed into the luminous, candle-lit chamber where everyone faced a very old, silver star set in marble marking…the…sacred…spot.

I looked around and noticed there were others here as well.  There was a group of nuns who sang like angels, and by the far wall an extraordinary sect of ebony-skinned people from the Celestial Church of Christ in Benin, dressed in immaculate, white robes, each solemnly kneeling toward that star.  Singing in French they knocked their foreheads on the floor whenever the Lord was mentioned in their song.

Next, one of the attendant sisters handed out sheets of lyrics and we earnestly sang “Away in the Manger.” It was an awesome, enchanting moment that I carry with me like a spot out of time, and it passed in a twinkling.

After exiting through the aptly named Door of Humility (only chest high it was constructed to keep mounted horsemen out of the sanctuary) we waved goodbye to our Anglican friends and found a table at a nearby coffee bar, where we nursed our glasses, said little and watched part of the Latin Mass being televised on a screen hanging down the side of the police station.  Now after midnight it was time to leave Bethlehem.

I, of course claimed to know the way and, certain of a shortcut, led our little expedition down a dark and crowded alley. Half an hour later…we arrived at the other side of Manger Square.  Again, we went through the security rigmarole at a different entryway, then pushed through the congested square and, after a stop for a falafel, attempted another escape.

And once more we were confronted with that awful, dark and crowded street. So this time we went left, away from the square and onto a road that descended into a valley and…(oh no!)…intersected with a dump, replete with barking dog.  We were lost, an astonishing feat in a town with but two major streets. And here the murky road ran sharply up in both directions.

Yes, I thought, this had all been a remarkable experience but now it was well after 2:00 a.m. and getting cold. So much for the supposed magic of Christmas, a callow notion if ever there was one.

Eventually a pair of headlights pierced the gloom and we roundly waved at the battered old van behind them, swearing sulkily when it drove by. But then it turned around.  I for one, got a little nervous, especially when the van stopped and its driver, who wore a keffiyeh (think Yasser Arafat), hopped out to ask in extremely broken English where we might be going.

“The road to Herodian,” I murmured.  The man’s eyes widened a little and he asked me to repeat myself, which I did.  Clearly we were off track and my directions were a little vague.Then he told us to get in…which we did, joining a host of others in the unlit van.

We learned that these were Arab Christian doctors and nurses just off duty from their hospital shifts and we were riding in their ambulance, which they regularly used to get home.  I did my best to describe the whereabouts of our car while to our absolute delight the women sitting cross-legged in the back began to sing in Arabic, with the men joining in on the chorus.

The singing was wonderful, a Christmas song I was told, and the van was warm and cozy.  So much so that I actually regretted it when we finally found our car, there by Shepherd’s Field.  I offered them money.  They refused, for now it was Christmas.  Then I remembered the bottle of gin decorated with garlands and stowed in the trunk for martinis.  This they gratefully accepted and singing once again, joyously drove on.

I awoke hours later to the sound of church bells pealing across the valley in that now familiar town. We made a fire near the tent and had a simple breakfast of fruit, nuts and cheese, washed down with instant coffee and Israeli liquer here on this balmy Christmas morning, with the soft blue-sky over Bethlehem looking every bit like a hand painted postcard.  I took some photographs, which have faded badly and certainly don’t do the moment justice.

In fact my memory of the remainder of that day has faded even more than the pictures. Though my memory of that simple Yuletide breakfast shines as brightly as David’s Royal City did on Christmas Eve,  as do those memories of the night that preceded it, when I came to believe, once and forever more, in the abiding magic of Christmas.

Performed by James Taylor, the lyrics to this Christmas Eve selection were written by Sally Stevens with music by Dave Grusin.

LISTEN TO THIS SELECTION – Christmas Eve 1980

Who Comes This Night

 Who comes this night, this wintry night,

As to the lowly manger?

The Shepherds and the Kings did come

To welcome in the stranger.

 Who sends this song upon the air

To ease the soul that’s aching?

To still the cry of deep despair

And heal the heart that’s breaking.

 Brother Joseph bring the light

Fast, the night is fading.

And who will come this wintry night

To where the stranger’s waiting?

Who comes this night, with humble heart,

To give the fullest measure?

A gift of purest love to bring

What good and worthy treasure.

 Brother Joseph bring the lamb

For they are asking for him.

The children come this starry night

To lay their hearts before him.

For those who would the stranger greet

Must lay their hearts before him

And raise their song in voices sweet

To worship and adore him.

 Brother Joseph bring the light

Fast, the night is fading

And who will come this wintry night

To where the stranger’s waiting.

Brother Joseph bring the lamb

For they are asking for him.

The children come this starry night

To lay their hearts before him.

Pure of heart this starry night

To lay their hearts before him.

Drink this wine and dream it will be

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1967, David John Matthews’ family emigrated to Yorktown Heights, NY in 1969, where his physicist father was employed by IBM.  The family returned to South Africa after Matthews’ father died in 1977.

Faced with conscription into the South African military upon his high school graduation  Matthews, a Quaker, returned to New York in 1986, and he too worked for “Big Blue” prior to moving to Charlottesville, Virginia where his family had lived for a time.

Having played the guitar since the age of nine, he formed the Dave Matthews Band there 1991 at the bidding of German-born musician, Tim Reynolds, who has served as his lead guitarist and with whom he has worked on solo projects…as was the case with this 1997 live performance.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Sunday 23 December  

Christmas Song

She was his girl; he was her boyfriend

She’d be his wife and make him her husband

A surprise on the way, any day, any day

One healthy little giggling dribbling baby boy

The wise men came, three made their way

To shower him with love

While he lay in the hay

Shower him with love, love, love

Love, love, love

Love, love was all around

Not very much of his childhood was known

Kept his mother Mary worried

Always out on his own

He met another Mary who for a reasonable fee,

Less than reputable was known to be

His heart full of love, love, love

Love, love, love

Love, love was all around

 When Jesus Christ was nailed to his tree

Said “oh, Daddy-o, I can see how it all soon will be

I came to shed a little light on this darkening scene

Instead I fear I’ve spilled the blood of our children all around”

The blood of our children all around

The blood of our children’s all around

So I’m told, so the story goes

The people he knew were

Less than golden hearted

Gamblers and Robbers

Drinkers and Jokers, all soul searchers

Like you and me

Like you and me

 Rumors insisted he soon would be

For his deviations

Taken into custody

By the authorities less informed than he

Drinkers and Jokers all soul searchers

Searching for love, love, love

Love, love, love

Love, love was all around

 Preparations were made

For his celebration day

He said: eat this bread and think of it as me

Drink this wine and dream it will be

The blood of our children all around

The blood of our children’s all around

The blood of our children all around

Father up above, why in all this anger do you fill

Me up with love, love, love

Love, love, love

Love, love was all around

Father up above, why in all this hatred do you fill

Me up with love, fill me love, love, love

Love, love, love

All you need is love

You can’t buy me love

Love, love, love

Love, love

And the blood of our children’s all around

So he said, “Let’s run, and we’ll have some fun…”

I’ll have to admit up front here that this song made me rather sad when I was very young, until one of my older sisters assured me, with great certitude, that when Frosty “…waved goodbye saying,“Don’t you cry, I’ll be back again some day,” he well and truly meant it.

Written in 1950 by Steve Nelson and Walter “Jack” Rollins (who also wrote “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” and is credited with creating Smokey the Bear), “Frosty the Snowman” was sent directly to Gene Autry and the Cass County Boys who were looking for a follow up to the chart-topping hit they’d had with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in ’49. Although “Frosty” didn’t quite make it to Number 1, it was still a top-ten hit at Number 7.

Interestingly, whereas “Rudolph” was a song based on a children’s book (published in 1939 through Montgomery Ward), “Frosty” was a song that was subsequently adapted into a children’s storybook. Of course in the 1960s both characters were featured in their own animated television specials that have since become holiday classics in their own right, and were watched, no doubt by little Fiona Apple McAfee Maggart, who was born in Manhattan in 1977.

Now known as Fiona Apple, she was raised in a household full of performers – her mother was a singer, her father an actor, her grandmother a popular revue dancer, her grandfather a big band singer, her elder sister a cabaret performer, and then there are the two half brothers, one a successful film director, the other a successful actor.

Signed to a record deal at the age of 17, the musician, songwriter and singer (with a contralto range) released her debut album, Tidal, in 1996.  Not only did the album go “triple platinum” but “Criminal” one of the tracks released as a single, garnered her the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, while another, “Sleep to Dream” won the MTV Music Award for Best New Artist.

Today’s selection was included on the 2003 Alternative Rock collection, “Christmas Calling.”  Surprisingly, to those who listen to this song, Apple is well-known for her brooding, angst-ridden demeanor.  Hmmm, I wonder if she too was once saddened by poor “Frosty’s” demise.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Friday 21 December 

Frosty the Snowman

 Frosty the Snowman

Was a jolly happy soul

With a corncob pipe and a button nose

And two eyes made out of coal

 Frosty the Snowman

Is a fairy tale they say

He was made of snow

But the children know

How he came to life one day

There must have been some magic

In that old silk hat they found

For when they placed it on his head

He began to dance around

Frosty the Snowman

Was alive as he could be

And the children say

He could laugh and play

Just the same as you and me

Frosty the Snowman

Knew the sun was hot that day

So he said, “Let’s run

And we’ll have some fun

Now before I melt away”

Down to the village

With a broomstick in his hand

Running here and there

All around the square

Saying, “Catch me if you can”

He led them down

The streets of town

Right to the traffic cop

And he only paused a moment

When he heard him holler, “Stop!”

 Frosty the Snowman

Had to hurry on his way

But he waved goodbye

Saying, “Don’t you cry

I’ll be back again some day”

The ox and the lamb kept time

You might say she’s one of this town’s more long-standing residents.  Born in Missouri in 1892, Katherine Kennicott Davis came east to study music at Wellesley College, where she remained as a teaching assistant while studying at the New England Conservatory of Music. After further studies abroad she returned to Massachusetts, to teach music at Concord Academy.

From the age of 15 Davis was also a celebrated composer, writing more than 600 pieces in her lifetime, many of them specifically for school choirs.  Although much of her work was highly acclaimed, the one piece that she’ll be best remembered for is this song written in 1941, originally entitled, “Carol of the Drum.” Apparently inspired by a Czech carol, she is said to have written it while trying to take a nap.

The song appealed to the von Trapp Family singers, who were the first to record it in 1955, shortly before they retired.  Then, a conductor and arranger named Harry Simeone who had worked on a number of Bing Crosby movies, re-arranged the piece with his friend Henry Onorati. He also gave it a new name.

Recorded in 1957 as a track on the (recently formed) Harry Simeone Chorale’s very first album, “Sing We Now of Christmas” (on which Simeone and Onorati received joint credit with Davis, though they had only served as arrangers) it was re-released as a single every Christmas from 1958 to 1962.  By which time “The Little Drummer Boy” had became a holiday classic.

With an august body of work that included choruses, cantatas, operas, piano pieces and popular songs, Katherine K. Davis continued to write music well into her 80s.  Upon her death in 1980 she was interred here in Concord’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and the considerable proceeds from her many musical compositions were left to Wellesley College’s Music Program.

Of “The Little Drummer Boy” she once quipped how it had been “done to death on radio and TV.”  Yet  musicians everywhere still continue to perform it, with over 225 cover versions recorded in seven languages…and a broad range of music genres.

A small sampling includes: Bing Crosby (solo and then with David Bowie), Johnny Cash, Jonnie Mathis, Marlene Dietrich, Rosemary Clooney, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, the Brady Bunch, Emmylou Harris, Joan Jett, Bob Seger, Neil Young, Grace Jones, Destiny’s Child, Celtic Woman, The Black Eyed Peas, The cast of Glee…

…and this version by Oregon based, 13-member Pink Martini, which (appropriately) draws inspiration from numerous genres all over the world.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Thursday 20 December 

Little Drummer Boy

 Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum

A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum

Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum

To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum

Rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

 So to honor Him

Pa rum pum pum pum

When we come

 Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum

I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum

I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum

That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum

Rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum

 Shall I play for you

Pa rum pum pum pum

On my drum

 Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum

The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum

I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum

I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum

rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum

 Then He smiled at me

Pa rum pum pum pum

Me and my drum