Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Quilting With TJR and Others

There's nothing I love more during Advent than working on Christmas projects. (Not for me the mere prudence and foresight of piecing Christmas stockings in July so they'll be ready to display in December.) That's why I'm so excited that Bonnie Hunter is sponsoring a new mystery quilt right now. It's called, "Carolina Christmas," and it's a scrappy quilt made in reds, greens, golds, with neutrals ranging from cream to tan as the background.

I made a last minute decision to join the online quilting frenzy, and I'm really looking forward to stitching cozily while listening to Christmas music. Every year I try to get a new Christmas CD, and this year's is The TJR Christmas Card featuring my brother TJR who plays and sings neo-classic rock. I'm a Medieval/Renaissance girl myself, but I confess to being impressed by the virtuoso fingering my brother displays in these instrumental interpretations of eight traditional Christmas carols. And I was particularly charmed by his original song, "Christmas in California." It's Southern California's reply to "White Christmas," and hearing it will stir feelings of nostalgia in any Californian transplanted to the frigid Midwest or East Coast. The CD is packaged in a cardboard case which doubles as a Christmas card. And if you buy five or more of them from his website they're only $5.00 apiece, making them a reasonably priced and easily mailed gift. Single copies of the disk will soon be available from CD Baby. For now you can download the complete album or individual songs. (By the way, that little snowman at the beginning of my post was done by my son Filius for the cover of the CD.)

Just to show that my musical taste is not formed solely by nepotism, I thought I'd list some of the other CDs I'll be listening to during this project. Sir Christmas: Songs of the Season is by Broceliande, a Celtic and Early Music ensemble which I first heard at Mythcon 38 where they were playing songs related to JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. This CD is the first of four volumes celebrating the seasons of the year. The songs, sung in French, Latin, English, Medieval Spanish and Middle English, are not your run of the mill Christmas carols. In origin they range from the 13th century to the 20th. Their rendition of Guadete is possibly my favorite. Click to hear samples. (Scroll down a bit to find Sir Christmas.)

Sing We Noel is a collection of Christmas music from England and early America. It includes the 15th century carol, "Nova, nova: Aue fitt ex Eva," which is the story of the Annunciation in Middle English with a Latin chorus. That's been a family favorite since our children were small. (Yes, we started brain washing them early!) "The Midnight Cry" from 19th century America recounts the story of the wise and foolish virgins, a seemingly odd choice for a Christmas CD, but a pretty good one for the season of Advent which emphasizes both the coming of Christ at Christmas and His seconding coming at the end of time. Other favorites on this disk are "Mervele Nought, Josep" and "Syng We to This Mery Cumpane." Brief samples can be heard here if you scroll down a bit.

Last year I couldn't find my copy of Diciembre en México by Donna Peña. But it turned up during the summer, and I'm looking forward to playing it again this year. It has lovely songs in Spanish celebrating both Christmas and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe which falls on December 12th. Mmmmm, I could go for some pan dulce and some Mexican hot chocolate!

And finally, just to prove that I am not without links to popular culture, I've always been fond of Perry Como Sings Merry Christmas Music which I heard over and over again when I was a child. (It was one of three Christmas records which my parents owned.) It's a mixture of traditional carols, such as "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and more modern songs such as "White Christmas."

The copy which Amazon sells has a different cover, so I dug up the picture at left from elsewhere on the Web. That's the copy my parents had, one of only three Christmas records which they owned. We kids heard it over and over and over again. Every little intonation of Perry's voice is engraved on my memory. That's why this album triggers "Christmas!" in my brain, and that's why, when I found a CD copy at the super market many years ago, I had to buy it. But it doesn't sound quite right. My parents' record had a scratch which caused the phonograph needle bounce and skip, repeating one phrase in "Christmas Song" over and over again. ("And every mother's child -- and every mother's child -- and every . . . ") Amazon has sound samples here. Just scroll down a bit.

What Christmas music do you like to listen to while sewing a Christmas quilt?

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