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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

nativity scenes



while stopping in at some friends' the other evening for eggnog, i noticed something for the first time. my friends collect nativity scenes. displayed there on the header, these are engaged in a veritable parade of nativity, each float telling the same story but doing so with style and aesthetic nuance that separates it from the others.

now THERE’s a collection idea: something that you can bring out once a year at a time when everyone displays theirs…i have some Christmas albums (in no particular order) that accomplish the same thing:

Band Aid:
Do They Know It's Christmas?
(1984)

a band of pop musicians drawn together by bob geldof (of the boomtown rats) and midge ure (of ultravox) on november 25, 1984 to record a special benefit song written by geldof and ure to raise money and awareness for the victims of a famine of biblical proportions in ethiopia that year. a larger live concert event called Live Aid was staged the following summer for the same cause. through the concert tickets, recordings, books and other merchandise, as well as the benefit moneys that were raised during the actual global 'telemiracle'-type concerts, over $300 000 000 was raised. the band aid record and the live aid concerts, although not the first benefits of this type (george harrison of the beatles staged The Concert for Bangladesh on august 1, 1971 which probably served as a helpful model for geldof's Live Aid event) they seemed to usher in a new era where pop musicians began to use their celebrity and their influence as a conversive, rather than subversive force for world change.

Various Artists:
A Very Special Christmas
(1987)
many pop stars who met each other for the first time either in the recording of 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' , the american music industry's benefit song 'We Are The World' (written by Michael Jackson) the canadian music industry's contribution 'Tears Are Not Enough', or in the blur that culminated on july 13, 1985 with Live Aid, rallied to put together an album of Christmas favourites old and new for Special Olympics.

Jon Anderson:
Three Ships
(1985)
the singer of the progressively epic art rock band 'yes' and longtime collaborator with vangelis (electronic composer of the oscar awarded soundtrack to the film Chariots of Fire) put together a particularly spacey, mid 80's-esque collection of Christmas songs and justice anthems. The record was dedicated to raising awareness for 'Beyond War' which continues to be a voice for justice and peace even today.

John Denver & The Muppets:
A Christmas Together

the soundtrack of a 1979 television special of the same name, this muppet record features a rollicking version of the beach boys' christmas hit 'little saint nick' (which follows the same formula as their earlier tune 'little deuce coup') that i worked up with a group of grade 7's during my internship at lakeview school in 1987. yep, our performance featured puppets as well. those 'kids' are now all 34 years old... 11 years older than i was when i taught them.

Boney M:
Christmas Album
(1981)
okay, i do NOT know why i have this album. i've never actually bought the record, yet have somehow owned 3 copies. however, speaking of christmas concerts, how would we live without 'mary's boy child' at least once in the holiday season?

Zero Mostel/ Alan Mills:
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
(1957)
the grinch story is great, but only takes up one side of the record and, in truth, i've never played it. i bought this record at value village because of side2: Christmas Songs From Many Lands, Sung In English by Alan Mills. see, my brother-in-law used to play this folk record when we would come to visit at Christmastime to play games and drink egg nog. terry was twelve years older than his baby sister, my wife vonda, and was the closest thing to a true modern day renaissance man that i will probably ever meet. a brilliant artist, athlete, musician, leader, mathematician, educator, dad and friend, his friendship and approval were kind of a big deal to me as i was trying to find my place in my wife's family...we played tennis together and talked about God and the beatles and i always said i wanted to be like terry when i grew up. he was killed with his wife by a drunk driver on october 11, 2003.

George Frederick Handel:
Messiah
(1741)
handel wrote this entire oratorio over a three week period. a powerfully spiritual encounter for the composer resulted in one of the most famous and well respected pieces of music ever to feature words and music by God.



Michael W. Smith:
Christmas
(1988)
orchestra, choir, synthesizers and some basic guitar, bass and drums come together in an album so rich in classical texture and (with the exception of, perhaps a painfully 80's rendition of 'angels we have heard on high') timeless in its delivery that it can be played outside the Christmas season and still bring about a rich awareness of the presence of God in the room.

each of these tells the same story- albeit the details and priorities may vary from telling to telling, each one of these bears tidings of great joy which shall be to all people…for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying
‘Glory to God in the highest- and on earth peace, good will towards men!’ (luke 2.10-14)

i know these words almost verbatim because linus has recited them yearly as part of A Charlie Brown Christmas since 1965.

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