Archive for December, 2010

Tone-deaf kids & Cash Cows

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

What do those 2 things have in common? Christmas, that’s what. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it? Aside from all the crabby people and horrible traffic, yes, it certainly is.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas. It’s too commercial. I’m not really a fan of most holidays, actually; they seem more like exercises in mass mind control than anything else. Really, think about it for a second. Valentine’s Day – buy candy, do “romantic things”. Easter – buy candy, hide eggs. 4th of July – blow things up. Halloween – costumes & candy. Thanksgiving – eat turkey. Christmas – buy stuff. New Years – get drunk, kiss someone, at MIDNIGHT. And the cycle repeats…

One nice thing about Christmas is that it is awash in music. One of my personal favourites is “Some Children See Him” by Alfred Burt, performed by Andy Williams. If you want a cash-cow, write a Christmas song; that sucker will be played every year throughout the end of time, even if it’s a steaming pile of manure. Just tune in to any radio station around Christmas time and you’ll see what I mean.

Of course, most of the best Christmas music, arguably, has already been written. Even Rob Mathes’ “William the Angel” (which is a good song in its own right) has “Angels We Have Heard on High” as sort of a basis to it. Then there are ones that have been cannibalized, bastardized, out-right STOLEN. Just slap an R&B rhythm figure behind it, and boom! You’ve just “written” a new tune. I was staying at a hotel at the Midwest Band & Orchestra Clinic last year, and the lobby music was this compilation of old Christmas classics that some “genius” had taken random 2-bar phrases of and looped, over and over. Yes, how clever. It’s like hearing “and they lived happily ever… happily ever… happily ever…” and so on. If I ever find the guy who did it, I’m going to punch him. Really hard. (figuratively, of course)

And, inevitably, it will be sung by a gaggle of kids, only a small percentage of which, statistically, will be able to carry a tune. We have, around these parts, a very generous radio station which plays performances by local groups starting the day after Thanksgiving. Some of the performers are bona fide diamonds in the rough; a majority of them are gaggles of kindergarten-ers with their own particular brand of, how shall I put it, “sprechstimme”. I would be dishonest if I said that kids used to be better singers, but that small percentage seems to have shrunken somewhat. And the more tone-deaf, the more endearing.