Friday, December 17, 2010

My kind of Christmas Music

Okay, I know I'm more than a bit abnormal, but I don't like hearing Christmas music (You know the kind!) playing in my ears for over 60 days this time of year!  I was okay with it after Thanksgiving through Christmas but this is ridiculous!  Don't get me wrong, I love the season, but I hate what we as a culture have done to it, though.

More than a few years ago I thought I, who love classical music could surely find classical Christmas music that was different in every way.  I was totally frustrated from the start.  I searched but was frustrated at every turn. That night my husband and I went to a local restaurant for dinner after Christmas shopping.  I'd gotten much of what I'd wanted to find for the kids, but we'd also searched for some Christmas music for me and found nothing.  I felt defeated and miserable, miserable that is because I was hearing the constant rewind of typical December music.

Well, this little restaurant was a real in-expensive haunt of ours and as we sat there first ordering then eating I was drawn into the music that was certainly not the typical Christmas elevator music that was playing everywhere, in fact it was beautiful!  On our way out I asked the manager on duty what it was, but he didn't know since they were all on a tape that contained lots of different pieces of music.  I kept calling over the next few days and asking if there was anyone I could ask about the music!  Finally he said that he'd ask the general manager about it, but he was not promising me he'd call me only that he's see if he could get the information and I might ask for it the next time I was in the restaurant.

Well, I was more than a bit persistent and finally the general manager did call me back personally.  He explained that the music came to him and he wasn't even sure who it was on the tapes, but he did give me a breadcrumb...there was a name on the cardboard that was on the box it had come in two weeks before.  Music for chain restaurants in those days were bought in bulk and half the time they weren't even sure what they were getting when they put them in the sound system each night.

The name he gave me was the key to the best music I've ever had for Christmas and I will never forget this musical discovery. The name on the box was Nonesuch, the actual title of a group that had also produced an album called A Nonesuch Christmas from the Baroque, Renaissance, and Middle Ages.  I found the music at the record store (Yup, in vinyl) and found it to be even better than I imagined.  That of course wasn't the end to my searching since the tape actually had many songs and instrumental pieces from that period by such composers as Bach and one who've I've learned to really appreciate, Michael Praetorius (late 1500s to the 1600s.)

My search turned up at least five other albums after that first discovery that I literally wore out every Christmas for years afterward.  It was actually something musically I looked forward to every year as my own personal sounds of Christmas.  Since then I've searched to replace those albums, but I haven't been unable to find the record in CD format no matter how much I've searched(Available in vinyl at over $100, though!).  It contained the most beautiful music created by harpsichords, lutes, voices, and so many other ancient instruments of the 1500s.  I have to say that I really miss those Christmas albums, but I do love the memories of that music and the memories of the music that still plays over and over in my memories during the Christmas Season.

It's funny how something so simple as a piece of music can truly come to define a season, or better yet describe a life during a period musically, but it certainly did for me.  And you need to know I'm not giving up - I'm still searching!  Out there I will find the music again, but until I do there are the memories of so many of those musical pieces will just have to carry me through.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

For All You Michigan Trivia Nuts!

For those of you (You too, Robert!) who have heard that the state of Michigan has been called the "Mitten State," here's an image, and book that shows how the UP is also a mittened hand (The Upper Peninsula, that why they call those who live there Yoopers!).  We learned this as kids in school way back in the 60s, and it's ended up as kind of identity thing here.

This book was written by Award-winning wildlife artist Michael Glenn Monroe and was published by Sleeping Bear Press in 1999.  It's really a great book for kids!