Thursday, December 4, 2008

Best & Worst Christmas Songs

I attended a gathering at the Abilene Women's Club yesterday for whom I was to be the "entertainment." My lovely wife went with me and we enjoyed a nice brunch with the group, followed by my bit. I was instructed to do some "Christmas" songs, by which was meant tunes appropriate for...well, an Abilene Women's Club brunch. I admit I cringed a bit while weeding through my options--slim pickins to say the least. My final set list was: "O Come, All Ye Faithful," "Blue Christmas," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and "Silver Bells."

I was not thrilled with this set; and the fact that, after I sang "Blue Christmas" in my best Elvis baritone, a younger-middle-aged woman stood up and shouted out, "Let's see those hips shaking!" is exactly why I feel the set didn't quite convey what Advent is about. But hey, I'm a pastor who likes to have fun, and a good performer has to know his audience. Plus, the tunes I chose were decent, sounded good on my guitar, and got the Christmas-sweatered ladies in the spirit--that is to say, the spirit of shopping and parties and TV specials and Christmas sweaters.

Now it's time for: You Make the Call! What is and is NOT on your Advent/Christmas set list? What are your most and least favorite Advent/Christmas/Seasonal songs/hymns? And why? (You might also include whose rendition you consider best...and worst.)


robert c. pelfrey said...

I'll start...
Best Advent hymn: "O Come, O Come Emmanuel"
Best Christmas hymn: "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"
Best "pop" Christmas song: "Merry Christmas From the Family" by Robert Earl Keen
WORST Christmas song: "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney ("Happy X-mas (War is Over)" by partner John Lennon is MUCH better)

Unknown said...

"Santa Claus and His Old Lady," By Cheech & Chong. That's the only "pop" Christmas song that's worth listening to. And I completely agree with your McCartney jab. That song is VAPID.

Unknown said...

Because I have young elementary school kids, "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" and "Feliz Navidad" are frequently heard being sung around my house. I don't like either song. I especially despise "Santa Baby" - either the Eartha Kitt version or the Madonna one. Materialism run amok. Blech.

I agree with you, Robert. I LOVE "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and equally "Oh Holy Night." Even when Celiene Dion sings it. Or maybe despite that fact. Makes me wish I had taken choir in school in addition to band just so I could do these two songs justice.

Felecia S. said...

The worst song EVER is "Jingle Bells" sung by -- or should I say barked by dogs. Dogs barking to any tune is, well, torture to my ears.
My FAVORITE song is "Mary Did You Know" by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd. The video of "The Nativity" is awesome -- brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it.

Isaac Cotherman said...

I have to say that O Come, O come Emmanuel is a good one. I also rather like O Little Town Of Bethlehem and O Holy Night

robert c. pelfrey said...

Gotta love the Cheech & Chong--up there with the McKenzie brothers' "12 Days of Christmas"! I share the sickness over "Santa Baby" and OH did Felicia call it with the dogs' rendition of "Jingle Bells"--forgot about that one...for good reason!

Anonymous said...

Best song- Kenny Meeks- Bethlehem Stable

The Worst- The Waitresses- Christmas Wrapping

Anonymous said...

My personal favorites are "O Holy Night" (a more traditional version, not the fancy shmancy souped up kind), We Three Kings (who doesn't get goosebumps when you sing, "Oh, OH Star of Wonder, Star of Light..." and, my guilty pleasure, "Once Upon a Christmas" by Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers. :)

robert c. pelfrey said...

Yeah, the extreme apathy of the Waitresses doesn't lend itself to the spirit of Christmas. Have to check into the Meeks tune--if Crabb recommends it, it must be good!

"Oh Holy Night" can be really inspirational, especially the "fall on your knees..." part. Isaac also mentioned "Oh Little Town..." which I love doing with just a solo guitar and voice--great images in that song. And, of course, anything done by Kenny and Dolly is instant gold!

Anonymous said...

Best Christmas Songs:
Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht - Vienna Boys Choir, w/Acoustic Guitar (as it was originally written)
Carol of the Bells (Ukrainian) - Handbell Choir or Acoustic Guitar
Hallelujah Chorus (as long as I don't have to sing Alto-Handel hated Altos)

Worst Christmas Songs:
Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
Anything by Alvin and the Chipmunks - annoying
White Christmas - we don't all live in snow country, so when the snow doesn't fall, we feel excluded.

Anonymous said...

My personal favourites: Christmas at our House by Barbara Mandrell; God rest ye merry gentlemen by Garth Brooks, O Holy Night by a group of singers - I don't know their names.

Jason said...

Freely mixing Advent and Christmas, and listing in no particular order:

Best: Veni Veni Emmanuel, O Holy Night (prefer to hear a good female singer who doesn't shout the climactic high part at the end), pretty much any traditional carols.

Worst: anything made out of dog and cat sounds, Burl Ives "Holly Jolly Christmas", anything excessively cute or schmaltzy, most of the mall muzak overkill that's been on since October, anything that sounds like it could have been recorded by Lawrence Welk (if you don't know who that is, rejoice).

Meh: I appreciate the meaning and the season, but never cared for the melody of Once in Royal David's City

Jason said...

Oh, and I love any traditional hymn or carol played on a classical guitar, especially Silent Night, Holy Night.

Unknown said...


Veni Veni Emmanuel, as sung by Beth Nielsen Chapman.

The Angel Gabriel, as sung by Sting.

Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye My People, and lots of other parts of the first half of Handel's Messiah

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), as performed by U2

Breath of Heaven, Amy Grant


Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer. I just hate that song.

And, finally. Kenny Meeks is a friend of mine. I will pass on the love. :)

robert c. pelfrey said...

I'm loving the thoughtful contributions here, especially regarding the renditions. "God Rest Ye..." by Garth Brooks, Jason's careful description of "O Holy Night" by a female voice, but NOT over the top--who doesn't know just what he's talking about :>)--and I share Thomas' love for Bono's raspy rendition of "Christmas (Baby Please...)." Good stuff...some new and old required listening for all of us this season.

Anonymous said...

Barbara Mandrell's Christmas at our House is not available on You Tube or anywhere else. Wish it were. Makes me feel nostalgic every time I hear it.

Unknown said...

More seriously (and not just because it seems to be a popular choice in these comments, I promise), my favorite Advent hymn is probably "O come, O come Emmanuel" -- when I hear a really good boy's choir version of that song, I go a little soft in the middle.

Best Christmas hymn: O Come, All Ye Faithful (I prefer it in Latin, but it doesn't have to be...)

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