Well, it’s that time of year again and I know that many of you are swimming in last-minute choir rehearsals and church presentations. So, in the spirit of a little respite, I thought I’d share with you some lesser-known songs you won’t likely be singing in your church this Sunday, but nonetheless are some of my personal favorites.
What follows is a list, in no particular order, of songs you would likely hear coming from my iPod if you were to come to my house for dinner during this time of year. I’m also including a playlist at the bottom so you can hear them via LaLa’s music playing service. (If you’re not familiar with LaLa, they’ll let you listen one time for free. But they let you listen to the entire song, which is cool). I’ve chosen these because of the song itself, the performance, or both.
- A Child Is Born by Oscar Petterson. This is a beautiful lullaby from a little known 1940’s radio Christmas drama. And who plays it better than Oscar?
- In the Bleak Midwinter / O Sanctissima. Liz Story delivers a nice touch on this tender hymn.
- I Come With Love by Harry Connick Jr. OK, so we all know and love Harry, but this one is somewhat hidden among the other great tracks on his Harry for the Holidays CD. I checked this CD out from the library and was listening to it in shuffle mode. His presentation of the gospel stopped me in my tracks.
- Cry of a Tiny Babe. This song is a great relief to the romanticized imagery so prevalent in church music. This is a gritty re-telling of the birth of Jesus and its implications for mankind. The best rendition that I know of is by its songwriter Bruce Cockburn for the Columbia Records Radio Hour. He is joined by Roseanne Cash, Rob Wasserman, and Lou Reed. I should warn you about Lou Reed. If you’re not used to Lou’s singing, it can be quite a shock to the system. To make matters worse (or better, depending on your perspective) he forgets how the song goes and tries to make it up as he goes along. The producers decided that it added charm and chose not to fix it. Hang in there though and you’ll get one of the best perspectives of the incarnation in popular song: “It isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes, but to shepherds and street people, hookers, and bums.”
- White Christmas by Ella Fitzgerald. Yes, we all know this song and love Bing’s rendition of it. However, this song really showcases Ella’s one-of-a-kind vocal quality. For my money, she is one of the best vocalists popular music has ever known. It’s also a great arrangement of horns / winds.
So, what about you? What are you favorite lesser-known songs of Christmas?