by Emily Browder Melville
Holidays are a busy time of year, with events, gifts, meals . . .it’s enough to turn busy elves into weary Scrooges. Our recipe for a season that truly fills hearts and spirits with holiday magic? Music, of course! There is a bounty of beloved songs that surface in our minds (and on the airwaves!) when the weather gets cold. From the sublime to the ridiculous, we all have favorite tunes that make the holiday season a pleasure instead of a hore.
What are some of your favorites? What do you whistle when you’re wrapping a package or finding the recipe for Aunt Wendy’s Brownie Pie? Upbeat childhood songs such as “Jingle Bells” or “Frosty the Snowman?” Songs from movies, such as White Christmas or Charlie Brown Christmas? Traditional carols such as “Deck the Halls” or “Good King Wenceslas?” Holiday songs are like gifts: some are weighty, warm, and traditional, like a comfortable wool sweater; others are light and playful, impulse stocking stuffers that Santa just couldn’t resist.
My favorite holiday songs come with memories: images from my own life. A most stirring favorite is “Silent Night,” which we sang each Christmas Eve, holding candles around the perimeter of the church in the solemn, expectant dusk. As a school kid, I loved singing “Here in My House,” about how candles are lit in many houses throughout the neighborhood for Christmas, Hanukah, and Kwanzaa in this “season of cheer.” I love “The Twelve Days of Christmas”- legend has that my mid-Western grandmother had the entire tight-lipped Durgin Park staff standing and singing it with her with arm motions. As my preschool daughter and I snuggle up with a beautifully illustrated Twelve Days of Christmas book that features the partridge, the doves, the leaping lords (and so on), I sense her making her own special memories.
At South Shore Conservatory (SSC), students are eager to learn their favorite holiday songs, and share them in the campus lobbies. You can hear everything from a high-school guitarist playing “Feliz Navidad,” to a first-grade pianist playing “Jingle Bells,” to “O Holy Night” from a middle-school sweet soprano. Our Golden Voices senior ensemble is preparing fresh three-part arrangements of hymns such as “Veni, Veni Emmanuel” and novelty pieces such “Christmas in Three Minutes” which cleverly strings together over 20 carols into one delightful holiday romp. Our SSC Community Voices Too! chorus for adults with developmental disabilities is hard at work on a gorgeous blending pairing of “Carol of the Bells” and “Silver Bells,” and the celebratory “Jingle Bell Rock,” which they will present in concert on December 12, at 7:30 pm.
The SSC faculty is also in the holiday spirit, presenting Holiday Favorites on Sunday, December 9. Come, catch your breath from your holiday preparations, and hear my wonderful colleagues Holly Ann Jennings (soprano), Donald Zook (flute), Sarah Troxler (piano), and Jesse Stiglich (percussion) offer music that sets an important holiday tone for them. For my pieces, I’ve chosen calming, beautiful tunes that downshift from busy-working-mom life, to help create the peaceful holiday I wish for my family, friends, and community. I won’t tell you exactly what the songs are, though. Holidays need an element of surprise, right? (Hint: see some of the movie music mentioned above.) Please join us, and may your season be bright, intentional, and full of your favorite music.
South Shore Conservatory’s Conservatory Concert Series presents Holiday Favorites on Sunday, December 9, 4 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham. Tickets are $5 per person and may be purchased at sscmusic.org. Students are admitted free.
Emily Browder Melville is Voice Department Chair at South Shore Conservatory.