A music blog

Advent calendar—December 1

Let us now praise advent calendars. In the run-up to Christmas, it was great to have something to open every day, even if was only a tiny window. More than the weekly advent candles, the minute or two spent with the calendar each day, mixing ritual and expectation, was magical. Maybe especially because it was private, mine alone. I’m too old for them now, and the magic of Christmas has mostly worn away, replaced by worries about shopping and shipping and seasonal affect disorder. But what magic remains clings to the music of the season. So maybe by combining them I—we—can recapture a glimmer of the season as I—we—remember it.

So for the next month consider this a musical advent calendar. Each day I’ll post a seasonal song (or video), the usual all-over-the-place mix. Some will sacred, some decidedly not, and some will be candy corns (NSFW!). Like the man says, They can’t all be winners.

To start, something quiet:

Peggy, Barbara, and Penny Seeger, “Mary Had a Baby” (1957)
from American Folks Song for Christmas
Scholastic Records 7553

With their close, pure, vibratoless harmony, Seeger sisters foreshadow the Roches on this spiritual. The song couldn’t seem simpler or more timeless until you hit that haunting, dislocating, oddly modern refrain, “People keep a-comin’ and the train done gone.”

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