Broaden your holiday tune horizons

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

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In this tumultuous year when nothing is normal, we can take comfort in one thing that hasn’t changed: Christmas carols. Everyone has their favorites and most of us have more than a few.

We asked the music experts on campus to share with us their favorite holiday tunes and also to suggest some new songs/artists or albums to expand our holiday music playlist.

Here’s what they had to say:

Emily Cassano, assistant teaching professor of theatre, music, and arts

My all-time favorite Christmas tune is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” because I love the musical Meet Me in St. Louis. I don’t necessarily have a favorite version; there are a lot of great renditions.

For more modern music, I typically turn on any of the Pentatonix Christmas Albums, and their song “White Winter Hymnal” is a favorite of mine.

In November, the three Fates from Hadestown (last year’s Tony Award Winner for Best Musical) released a Christmas album called If the Fates Allow.  It’s really great, and very non-traditional, like Hadestown itself.  One of the three Fates is played by an Erie native and Penn State alumnus Mike Karns’ wife, Kay Trinidad.

Gabrielle Dietrich, director of choral ensembles and associate teaching professor of music

I have to admit my holiday music tastes are eclectic, and also more modern in their conception.

I really enjoy Dar Williams’ “The Christians and the Pagans,” the Goo Dolls’ “Better Days,” and Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles’ “Winter Song.”

As for classics, I have a real soft spot for “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” because what says “Happy Holidays” better than some good old-fashioned insult comedy!

Gary Viebranz, teaching professor of music

The first classic that comes to my mind is an oldie, but a goodie: “Mary’s Boy Child” by Harry Belafonte. In a most traditional sense, I love “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” especially the rendition by the King’s Singers.

For some nostalgia, I grew up with the Harry Simeone Chorale recording “Sing We Now of Christmas” and still listen to it. My silly side likes “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” by Spike Jones and his City Slickers, and I appreciate “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” from the original soundtrack of the animation, which is sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger. Heeeeee’s Grrrrreat!

If you want to expand your horizons, I’d encourage you try some instrumental collections. My favorites include “A Canadian Brass Christmas” and the Philadelphia Orchestra’s “A Christmas Festival,” which is an amazing album recorded in 1964.

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