My Christmas Song Blog series is almost finished. Happy New Year’s Eve! and Happy New Year to friends and family in Asia, Australia, and Europe! Join me tomorrow for my New Year’s Day blog.
Here’s a song to welcome 2021 from Steven Curtis Chapman’s JOY Christmas album. Listen on Spotify if you’re a subscriber or YouTube.
Isaiah 43:19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Thank you for joining me throughout the entire Christmas Holiday season by reading my blog and listening to My 2020 Christmas playlist. Please share your comments below. I’d love to get your feedback. Thank you.
On this Christmas Eve 2020, I’m embracing a more relaxed and quiet evening than last year. 2019 was the year I was cast in an elaborate and beautifully staged production of a Christmas pageant called “The Majesty of Christmas” at Six Flags in Eureka, MO. There were twelve performers including the main characters of the Christmas story and live animals including six cuddly looking sheep, a temperamental donkey, and Clarence the camel.
We performed 3-4 shows a day every weekend starting the weekend of Thanksgiving and then everyday during school Christmas break except for Christmas Eve & Day, and all the way to New Year’s Day. This was the most performance I’ve done for a show in my career. It was close to 50 shows and my voice stayed strong in singing 1st Soprano, until I got sick with a cold then flu and missed one day of shows.
What a stark contrast Christmas 2020 has been with almost no live shows except for “live on-line.” While tonight is not the traditional Christmas Eve I’m accustomed to, I’m embracing this time to reflect and treasure the true meaning of Christmas. Instead of rushing to get ready to perform, I can be still and pause with my heart filled with Joy for the birth of My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who is the reason my family and I celebrate Christmas, along with others who believe in Jesus Christ as the begotten Son of God who came to be the Savior of the World.
As I reflect on Matthew 1-2, with my Christmas playlist in the background, Jim Brickman’s contemplative piano solo recording of this song allows me to sing along and imagine the time when the Wise Men came to visit the baby Jesus.
Matthew 2:10-11 English Standard Version (ESV)
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. ESV
In 1962 a record producer invited Noël Regney to write a Christmas song. With his then wife, Gloria Shayne they wrote “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Regney wrote the lyrics that was set to music by Shayne. While it was meant to be a Christmas song, they wrote it as a plea for peace, since there was a threat of war in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The song’s narrative combines parts of the Christmas story and its characters along with the message to pray for peace.
While the Harry Simeone Chorale originally recorded it in 1963, it was Bing Crosby’s recording that made it a hit song. So many prominent artists have since recorded it and is now considered one of the Holiday standards.
The first time I learned and sang this song was the year my Mom recruited me to join our church choir. I think I was 11 or 12 years old at the time. It was one of the fun songs I liked to sing during Christmas time.
The African Children’s Choir once again sings in this recording. It’s a wonderful crescendo and build up to the message of the song “pray for peace people everywhere! the child sleeping in the night, he will bring us goodness and light.”
This holiday song was written by American conductor, pianist and composer Felix Bernard and lyricist Richard Bernhard Smith in 1934. Jim Brickman’s arrangement and performance starts dreamy and mystical in a slow tempo, and then the tempo picks up into a lyrical song, which I often join in and sing.
While living in the Philippines as a child, my sisters and I enjoyed singing “walking in a winter wonderland” complete with arm & hand gestures. So just imagine our delight when we first experienced SNOW! We couldn’t help singing “Winter Wonderland” as we jumped, played, and crashed in a bed of snow for the first time. To this day, I burst out singing this song whenever I go for a walk around my neighborhood after a snow storm, and I make the first snow tracks.
Here’s another song written by lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne. It’s said that they wrote this in the middle of a heat wave in Hollywood, California in 1945. As I write this blog it’s a sunny 40 degrees in the St. Louis area. I mentioned in my Dec. 4 Song of the Day that I love SNOW! so of course I’m blogging about another recording of this song.
Steven’s rendition of this song sounds more like the popular version I know. He adds a piano, bass, and drums to the ensemble for a jazzy flare and they brake out in full jazz improvisation in the middle of the song that I absolutely enjoy! You’ll be finger snappin’ again while listening to this recording.
Here’s the piano solo rendition of another Christmas classic. It is said that lyricist Kim Gannon and composer Walter Kent wrote this song for the soldiers overseas longing to be home for Christmas. It was first recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943 in the midst of World War II. This song peaked to No. 3 in the billboard charts that year.
For almost twenty years I only saw my family at Christmas and this song was meaningful the year I decided to spend time with my family in January instead of Christmas to celebrate my grandfather’s 100th Birthday.
That was the first Christmas I spent alone and it was a somber day. Thankfully, my voice teacher at the time invited me to join her family for Christmas lunch, at their magnificent home in Rockport, MA overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Listen to Jim’s sweet and gentle performance of this song onSpotifyif you’re a subscriber or YouTube. This is the Dec. 5 song of the day from (my) Julie-Ann Joy’s 2020 Christmas Playlist. Check back everyday until New Year’s Day as I add another song to my playlist.
St. Louis blizzard of 1982 was the first winter I enjoyed in America. I remember playing in at least two-feet of snow in the front yard. My sisters and I didn’t have snow pants just winter coats and snow boots. We didn’t care how cold it was. We built a snow man, had snow ball fights, and laughed to our hearts content. That experience became my definition of Winter. One of the four-letter words I love to say out loud is SNOW and lots of it! That’s why it was very disappointing when the next few years didn’t compare to the 1st Winter Snow I ever experienced.
To this day, I look forward to the first blizzard or nor’easter. I love to watch snow falling and accumulate. Once the snow storm stops, I enjoy walking around my neighborhood before anyone else so that I get to make the 1st snow tracks. One of my best memories of living in New England was when my roommates and I walked around our neighborhood in the middle of a Nor’easter and then afterwards enjoyed hot cocoa (or maybe it was apple cider).
The Manhattan Transfer’srecording of “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow” is a romantic ballad to listen and enjoy with your loved-one while slow dancing, or cuddling by the fireplace, or sipping your favorite hot beverage. Just picture the perfect Hallmark movie scene with this recording playing in the background. Listen on Spotify if you’re a subscriber or YouTube.
Written by Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi for the 1965 television special “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” This song has been recorded by numerous artists since 1982, and it’s considered one of the popular Christmas Standards. Amongst the numerous recordings available, it’s Steven Curtis Chapman’s rendition that’s on my Christmas playlist since I bought his “JOY” Christmas CD.
I enjoy Steven’s guitar and vocal arrangement as well as performance of this song. He sings and plays this song with gentleness and warmth. Listening to this song makes me wanna sit by the fire place while sipping hot cocoa or apple cider. Collaborating with Steven is Brent Mulligan on Bass and Cello. Listen on Spotify if your a subscriber or YouTube.
“Carol of the Bells” is a traditional Ukrainian Bell Carol composed by Mykola Leontovych and lyrics by Peter J. Wilhousky.
“Hark how the bells,
Sweet silver bells,
All seem to say,
Throw cares away
Christmas is here,
Bringing good cheer,
To young and old,
Meek and the bold…”
My first recollection of singing this song was in high school. This Christmas classic is included in my playlist as the piano solo “Winter Bells” arranged and performed by independent artist extraordinaire Peter Vantine and recorded in his “Prayerful Improvisation Christmas” album.
First recorded and popularized by legendary Bing Crosby and Carol Richards in 1950, this song made its cinematic debut in the movie “The Lemon Drop Kid” with entertainer and comedian Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell singing the song.
This Christmas Classic is in my playlist as an instrumental version recorded by Jim Brickman in his album “Christmas Romance.” He is an American pianist and songwriter known for his solo piano compositions. Released in 2008, when I was still living in Boston, MA, this CD was a musical gift from Pam, one of my dear friends.
This arrangement brings together the piano and accompanying instruments into a cool, jazzy, dreamlike recording that paints a winter wonderland picture in my mind. This is my first and only CD from another prolific composer whose career spans more than two decades. Listen to this winter wonderland rendition of “Silver Bells” on Spotify if you’re a subscriber, or the full album on YouTube.