Monday, December 8, 2008

Music Monday - Christmas Music Redux

I like Christmas music probably about as much as your average guy does. I’m not the kind of person that wants to start playing it while everyone is setting up their stuff for Halloween and stop playing when we celebrate Memorial Day. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but in my opinion, there’s only so many different arrangements you can do (and listen to!) of Silver Bells, Silent Night & Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. These get real old, real quick. My wife would probably call me a scrooge for this, but I’m glad that all radio stations don’t play Christmas music 24-7 during the month of December.

There is one exception, however – the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. If there was a radio station that played nothing but TSO year round, I would have it preset to my #1 station on my truck radio. Now, before you think that there is some hope for me after all, be warned that TSO is not exactly what you would call traditional. TSO is similar to the Mannheim Steamroller. Only on steroids. TSO is what you would get if you crossed Metalica and Nat King Cole. But even then, their style is as varied as it is non-traditional.

For example, in the beautifully stirring Christmas Canon (below) you have a simple orchestral piece set to Pachabel’s Canon accompanied by a children’s choir. If you can watch the video or listen to this piece without being touched, perhaps you should check your pulse.

Compare that with their "O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night" arrangement (my absolute favorite of theirs) and you’re probably left wondering if this is the same group.

But even in this ramped up version of two beloved Christmas hymns, you are still left almost breathless at the beauty of the music. Even if the musicians didn’t intend on conveying this thought, in listening to this piece I’m left with the impression that perhaps in Heaven it wasn’t a “Silent Night” on that Christmas evening, but one of majestic triumph and celebration as the pivotal point of all history comes to fruition in the birth of Jesus Christ. As I listen to the first part of the song, I imagine the shepherds out in the fields, listening as the angel of God proclaims “I bring you good news!” Then the song builds as the entire angelic chorus join him in singing “Glory to God in the Highest!!” The song then reverts back to the shepherds immediately after the sky turns dark once again, the air still crackling with excitement, but the song now focuses once more on a bunch of lowly shepherds filled with nervous curiosity and brimming with the desire to go find the Messiah.

They have so many other original scores and arrangements of traditional songs too that run the entire spectrum of style. So if you’re into non-traditionally traditional music, you’ve got to check out the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

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