Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Do Christmas Songs Have to be "Christmas-y"?

Now, let's start off by saying, we at the Embro Thistle Singers do CHRISTMAS.  We don't say "holiday" concert.  We don't avoid the Christian story nor do we skirt around Santa.  That suits most of the people who ask us to sing.

We did sing a concert for an "Appreciation Dinner" at Christmas time for an international group that doesn't allow any reference to Christmas at all.  They wanted to be inclusive so no Christmas.  Because they work throughout the world, they don't want to be seen to support any religion or belief system in particular.  Interesting.

So how do you chose Christmas music.  There are secular songs like White Christmas and Christian songs like Mary Did You Know and everything in between.  So how do you choose.

1. Audience - Obviously, you have to know what they want.  It is most important to honour your listeners.  If what the people asking you to sing is unpalatable to you, then just don't accept that gig.  If you sell tickets, then you choose music you know your audience will come to hear.  Every year at Royal Albert Hall in London, England, there is a Christmas concert with various big name musicians. One of the enduring features is the sing along with the carols.  It is a staple and much anticipated by the crowd that comes.  Why would they change that?  It works and brings in the audiences year after year.

2.  Choir abilities - Be very certain that the difficulty level of your music suits the members of your group.  It is lovely to take on the Hallelujah Chorus if you are a large group with experienced singers.  Young, untrained or small groups will not do justice to such a piece.  There are pieces of music we have started and put aside.  We didn't have enough time to bring it to a concert worthy level.  If in doubt, throw it out.

3. What you like - We are singing Baby It's Cold Outside, Angels Among Us, and Mary Did You Know and Calypso Carol which are new to us this year.  What a mix.  Baby is just about a couple on a date in the winter.  Angels Among Us is a story of kindness and Mary & Calypso tell parts of the Christmas Story.  We have sung You Raise Me Up, When a Child is Born, Because We Believe, Wonderful World, Over the Rainbow as well as many great Christmas pieces.  We did the 12 Days After Christmas which gave us many laughs too.

So in answer to the question in the title, no Christmas music can be whatever moves you.  Our audiences appreciate our eclectic lineup of songs and we enjoy all the songs we sing.  We want to sing music that tells stories of hope, caring, love, humour and friendship.  Some music is just for fun.  Whatever we sing, it must be musically satisfying, appropriate to our skills with a chance to stretch and learn.  Sing, just sing and make it count.

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