And now for the second installment of my list of Christmas music I can’t go without!
“December” and “Forest”
Where Vince Guaraldi’s jazzy tunes provide festive accompaniment for the flurry of flour we call our kitchen, George Winston’s soft, muted piano numbers offer a different side of Christmas music. My family and I like to listen to these albums while we eat Christmas Eve dinner. The quiet melodies emanating from a single piano provide a perfect accompaniment to warm conversation or simply admiring the glow of the Christmas tree.
Winston’s pieces are so evocative of such a wide variety of wintry imagery that I can’t recommend “December” and “Forest” enough. One of my favorite tracks from “December” is “Snow.” This track is incredible in that it perfectly captures what snow, gently falling and occasionally blown about by an errant gust of wind, would sound like if it had a sound. Expertly capturing an entirely silent phenomenon in music notes is truly an amazing feat.
While “December” does sport a few classic carols (Winston’s takes on “Carol of the Bells” and Pachelbel’s “Kanon” are exquisite), Winston’s original pieces shine through, particularly “Snow” and “Midnight.”
I love “Snow” and “Midnight” so much because they evoke some looked-over aspects and emotions of the Christmas season. Yes, there are plenty of songs about snow, but Winston’s snow is driving, elemental, and pure, rather than jolly and innately tied to Old Saint Nick. Here is snow as it really is: cold, stark, and beautiful. And when listening to “Midnight,” one can clearly picture a dark, still house on Christmas Eve as a grandfather clock strikes the late hour. I like that Winston ventured to play pieces inspired by Christmas’ quieter moments. After all, Christmas isn’t just about boisterous joy and flashing lights; it’s about the muted, sometimes wistful moments as well.
I feel that I must include “Forest” as well, even though it is not strictly a Christmas album. In this album, Winston covers music from the short animated film “The Snowman.” The music, originally by Howard Blake, retains its sparkling beauty and its melancholy tones. Because Winston is playing pieces originally scored for multiple instruments, I do occasionally miss the oboes, flutes, and bassoons of the original score. However, Winston’s piano does Blake’s music justice by providing a more pared-down twist on a truly excellent soundtrack.
And that’s part two of my list of essential Christmas music. Stay tuned for the final music installment: Bing Crosby!