Producing Notes – We Need a Little Christmas

I have a confession to make that I’m not proud of:

I love Christmas music.

I don’t mean that I tolerate it when it’s playing in the mall in November/December. I mean I actively crave the time of year when all of my favourite radio stations start playing songs about tinsel and mistletoe and Rudolph. Generally this fetish makes those who sit in my car very aggravated.

I can’t explain what I love about Christmas music. I’m Jewish, so it’s certainly not due to any childhood nostalgia for carols around a tree.

I think though that whatever part of my brain loves musical theatre is the same part that loves Christmas music. In fact, I think that the two types of music are very closely linked:

They are both story driven.

I can daydream of having a cast of elves and dancing candy canes to stage “Frosty The Snowman,” “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “Little Drummer Boy,” and “Let It Snow.” Unlike songs we normally hear on the radio, Christmas songs tend to tell a story or function much in the same way that a good musical theatre song does. I invest in the songs more because I invest in the character or the story.

They are both emotionally-rich

Is it normal to cry during the “fall on your knees” section of “Oh, Holy Night”? The “through the years we all will be together” section of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”? The “if only in my dreams” section of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”? I don’t know why Christmas song writers are so melancholy, but they seem to share in the same love of emotionally-satisfying material that Broadway writers like. Terrific ballads with well crafted, clean rhyming structures, that tug a little at the heart strings.

They pull from a similar catalogue

I’ll bet you there is a whole community of children who have never seen a musical but know the words to “My Favourite Things” and “We Need A Little Christmas”. The Christmas music world has been borrowing from our canon of shows for many years. Plus some of the most popular Christmas songs are written by Broadway composers including Jule Styne (“Let It Snow”), Irving Berlin (“White Christmas”) and Meredith Willson (“It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”). Unfortunately most Broadway songs that get played on the radio during Christmas are horrendous cover versions. My Christmas wish this year is that they might consider just playing the versions from the original cast recordings instead.

They appeal to the same demographic

I am going to predict that most people who subscribe to musical theatre would be likely to listen to Christmas radio. Both genres seem to be after a similar demographic. Even amongst contemporary audiences, it is coincidental the Glee can get away with covering both Broadway and Christmas and retain the same fan base?

So… at this unusual time of year when I can walk through Holt Renfrew and enjoy a musical theatre Christmas song over the loudspeaker (instead of having to hide my musicals at a discreet volume level on my ipod), I wish all of the musical theatre and Christmas song lovers out there a very happy holiday season. And happy listening.



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