Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Christmas Redux

Over the years I’ve posted these YouTube piano “performances” of my favorite Christmas songs.  I present them here in one place and by clicking onto the title, one can read my original reason for recording each.  Interspersed are some photographs of Christmas here in Florida.  It’s certainly not the same as our Connecticut years but it is the same spirit.

The first is by none other than Bill Evans and it’s the most viewed of my selections. 

 Luminaries light the way on our road throughout Christmas Eve.

Here is one of my very favorites, by Vince Guaraldi, something this great jazz pianist wrote for A Charlie Brown Christmas special in 1965.

 Many homes are decorated along the Intracoastal Waterway

This is an unusual one in that it was written by none other than Peggy Lee.  It’s rarely performed yet beautiful

The Palm Beach Boat Parade organizes in front of Old Port Cove and is preceded by fireworks all along the parade route up to Jupiter.

And the last is one of the iconic Christmas songs we hear again and again, but as I’m away from “home” – NYC where I was born and will always identify with -- it has a special meaning to me.

May your holidays be happy and healthy!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

If Only In My Dreams

And so the classic song "I'll Be Home For Christmas" ends with that memorable line “if only in my dreams.”

And that is sort of the way I feel at this stage of my life.  Christmases are now dreams of the past, anticipating the holiday as a child and then the pleasures Ann and I had in creating memorable holiday moments for our children as they grew up.  The classic song itself is particularly evocative of the distant past popularized by Bing Crosby and so many others, first recorded at the peak of WW II. 

Undoubtedly it was played frequently by my mother and my grandparents with whom we lived while my father was in Germany at the conclusion of the War, wanting to get home, but he was part of the occupying force and didn’t make it home until right after Christmas 1945.  "I'll Be Home For Christmas" is probably implanted in the recesses in my mind as every time I hear it I feel a sudden melancholy. 

When my father came home he brought a wooden replica of the Jeep he drove in Germany for me.  I don’t remember his return, or getting the Jeep, but somehow that 70 year old Jeep has accompanied me to wherever I lived.  Sometimes when I look at it, I can hear "I'll Be Home For Christmas."

In some past blog entries I’ve posted videos of other Christmas songs I like to play, in particular the following:  “It's Love -- It's Christmas,”  a seldom performed Christmas song, written by none other than the great jazz pianist Bill Evans. And, then, “Christmas Time Is Here” is by Vince Guaraldi, a great jazz musician too but his music will always be associated with the Peanuts Christmas specials.
Finally, there is “Christmas Lullaby,” probably the most unknown Christmas song. It was written for Cary Grant by none other than Peggy Lee (Lyrics) and Cy Coleman (Music). It is the simplest of tunes and lyrics but therein is its beauty.

So, on the eve of this Christmas I post my piano rendition of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” with fond memories of my Dad and Christmases past.

"I'll Be Home For Christmas"

I'll be home for Christmas;
You can plan on me.
Please have snow and mis-tle-toe
And presents on the tree.

Christmas eve will find me
Where the love light gleams.
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams.

I'll be home for Christmas;
You can plan on me.
Please have snow and mis-tle-toe
And presents on the tree.

Christmas eve will find me
Where the love light gleams.
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Lullaby

Talk about unknown Christmas songs.  Christmas Lullaby was written for Cary Grant by none other than Peggy Lee (Lyrics) and Cy Coleman (Music).  It is the simplest of tunes and lyrics but therein is its beauty.  And the story of how it came to be written and recorded by Cary Grant is told by Jessica Pickens in her blog, Comet Over Hollywood. YouTube captures Grant’s recording for posterity

James Gavin, in his biography of Peggy Lee, Is That All There Is?: The Strange Life of Peggy Lee, said “Christmas Lullaby as Lee called it, wasn’t anything too special. ‘Angles bless you, little one…my little one, sleep well.’ But as Lee sat alongside Grant at a Hollywood studio and gazed at him while he talk sang her words, he could have been intoning Emily Dickinson.”

Although Christmas is not the same for me as it was when I was growing up and then for us as parents raising two sons (happily both visiting us this holiday), the spirit indelibly left its mark.  I posted YouTube piano versions of two of my favorite Christmas pieces, one two years ago --  a Bill Evans composition, It’s Love It’s Christmas, and, last year, Vince Guaraldi’s classic Christmas Time Is Here. 

So I offer one of Christmas Lullaby, a lovely one minute waltz.  Lyrics are below.  Happy and Healthy Holidays to all!

Angels bless you little one / while you’re fast asleep.
You’ll awake to dancing toys, candy canes, Christmas joys.
And I pray your whole life through, Angels will watch over you,
loving you the way I do my little one, sleep well.
Angels bless you little one / while you’re fast asleep.
You’ll awake to dancing toys, candy canes, Christmas joys.
And I pray your whole life through, Angels will watch over you,
loving you the way I do my little one, sleep well.

Copyright © 1967 by Notable Music Co. Inc. and Denslow Music Co. Inc.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Time is Here -- in Florida

Last year I posted my piano rendition of one of my favorite Christmas pieces, It’s Love –It’s Christmas, written by the great jazz pianist, Bill Evans.  You rarely hear it performed in the tsunami of holiday music that overwhelms airwaves at this time.  Another favorite is Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas Time Is Here, much more frequently performed.  No wonder, it was written for A Charlie Brown Christmas special in 1965.  Although Guaraldi’s music will always be associated with the Peanuts Christmas specials, he was a fabulous jazz pianist and composer in his own right, tragically and suddenly dying at the age of only 47 of a heart attack or aortic aneurysm.

So, in the spirit of a Florida Christmas, I offer my own piano rendition, nothing like the master Guaraldi’s, but just mine.  The lyrics are by Lee Mendelson, the producer of the Charlie Brown specials, who just happened to hear Guaraldi’s "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" on the radio and sought him out to compose the music for the 1965 special, and the rest is history.

Christmas Time Is Here

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

Christmas time is here
Families drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year

And what would Christmas time be in Florida without the recent Boat Parade.  We had a view from the starting point at the North Palm Beach Marina, the parade preceded by fireworks.  Having had our most memorable Christmases in Connecticut, the contrast is, well, striking.

From Christmases past, this 1977 photo, Jonathan, Ann, me, our beloved Uncle Phil, and Chris…

A Happy and Healthy Holiday to All!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Another Holiday Ritual

There’s a corollary to sending out Holiday Cards: receiving cards and then coming to the point of having to throw them out.  We keep a list of names and addresses so we have a checklist of the people we’ve sent and received cards from.  Over the years, that list has declined from hundreds, and then leveled off to about a hundred, and now to less than a hundred.  Death, and the attrition of friends with whom we now have only a superficial relationship are the main reasons for the decline, and some have gone the Email route to express their holiday greetings.  We still like to send a card and put a stamp on an envelope but probably that too will fall by the wayside one of these days.

I feel a sense of sadness when old friends or former colleagues suddenly disappear from our checklist.  Of course circumstances change and old relationships not actively maintained are the main culprits.  As much our fault as theirs.  On the other hand there are people with whom we exchange cards, year after year, although our contact with them from decades ago was strictly accidental and passing.  

One such exchange is with Bianca, the woman Ann shared a hospital room with when our son Jonathan was born.  I think we visited one another a few times after the respective births of our sons more than three decades ago, but outside of that, the only contact we’ve had has been those holiday card exchanges, she commenting on her son’s progress in life and we doing the same.  It is a touching tradition and we look forward to those holiday updates as our sons navigate their lives, born on the same day and at almost the same moment.

Another holiday card exchange is truly remarkable.  As the New Year was turning from 1989 to 1990, I had a business trip to Japan and decided to take Ann and Jonathan (his first such trip, being only 12 years old at the time).   

While I was meeting with our host, a Japanese bookseller in Tokyo one day (this photo is of us, he and his wife in front of our hotel), Ann and Jonathan decided to take the underground to the Ginza area to shop and have lunch.  As they were finishing their meal, Ann remarked to Jonathan that she thought a fellow diner appeared to have been listening very attentively to their conversation.  Ann smiled at her and shortly afterward a very demure looking older Japanese woman came over to their table and in very correct English apologized for appearing to be overhearing their conversation.  She went on to say “I hope you will pardon me, I do not mean to interrupt, but may I ask where you are from?”  Ann was a little surprised as it was quite unusual to hear a Japanese person speaking English so well.  

So Ann replied and the woman asked whether she could move next to them and talk to them a little as she had so few opportunities to speak to native English speakers.  She explained that she was a language teacher in her nearby home town of Yokohama.

By all means Ann said and so throughout the rest their meal, the three of them talked.  They hit it off!  She introduced herself as Mrs. Murakami, and invited Ann and Jonathan to be her guests at a specialty dessert shop down the street.  They continued to talk and then Mrs. Murakami did something very uncharacteristic of the Japanese, she invited us all for tea and lunch and to see her ancestral home in Yokohama where she and her husband lived.  Ann accepted knowing we were free that following Saturday.   

So off to Yokohama we went where she met us at the train station to help us find the house, situated in the prime spot at the top of a hill.  Although not a house the size of most average American homes, it was very large by Japanese standards.  But it had been handed down from generation to generation in her family and was highly treasured.  We were cordially welcomed by other members of her family and led into the living room and seated in places of honor.  This room also serves as a bedroom where tatami mats are placed on the floor for sleeping. After a small meal concluded with tea, we were given a short tour of the rest of the house, in particular one room devoted to the worship of her ancestors, where a shrine was adorned with candles.

The following year, we decided to send her a holiday card and she sent us one as well, the two crossing in the mail.  Since then, we have not missed a Christmas holiday without sending a card and note to her as well as she to us. 

As it turns out, Ann and Mrs. Murakami had a chance to renew their acquaintance ten years later, in 1998, when we flew to Japan to visit Jonathan, then spending his junior year at Doshisha University in Kyoto.  Mrs. Murakami treated Ann to an extraordinary luncheon where no menus were presented, exquisite small dishes just kept arriving at their table for almost 2 hours.  Ann remembers thinking that that was the most gastronomically incredible meal she has ever had!

However, this year we didn’t receive a card and we were worried, knowing Mrs. Murakami is about ten years our senior.  We were about to put our list away and suddenly there appeared an envelope from Japan and we could tell by the handwriting that it was from her.  We were elated.

Inside the card was a very neatly handwritten note as follows:

Dear Ann,
   Thank you very much for your 26th Christmas card.  It gives me courage for life.  The picture of you two is so wonderful and you are as young as you are when I saw you for the first time in Tokyo.  I am not so fine.  I was in a hospital ten days this summer and next year I will have an operation on my eye.  But fortunately I can attend the class of Reading Shakespeare two times a month.  We have spent twenty years now.  Still we have seven plays ahead of us.  Every member is around eighty years old.
   Please tell my best regard to your dear son Jonathan.  I wish you all Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
With love, Toshiko

Indeed, Toshiko, your note too gives us “courage of life.”