The previously-promised music vids: first up, a new-to-me tune by offbeat-classical composer Sir Karl Jenkins, from his 2009 release Stella Natalis.
I first heard this one way too early on Christmas morning, lying in bed in that moggy not-asleep, not-awake state, and frankly, it kinda weirded me out a little bit. After jolting fully awake and recovering from the slight case of the heebie-jeebies it induced, I simply can’t stop listening to it. It’s odd, edgy, abby-normal, not by any means your usual Christmas-music fare. If it had been around back when Tim Burton’s unforgettable Nightmare Before Christmas came out (1993), at least half of the tracks on the Stella Natalis album would have fit in quite nicely for the soundtrack.
Next, one I’d meant to include last week but forgot about: a simply stellar arrangement of one my all-time most beloved Christmas songs.
This one is in heavy rotation on that Irish Christmas-music stream I hipped y’all to last month, and it’s a real beaut. In fact, after repeated listens it’s come to closely rival the powerful Cantus arrangement I’ve run here for a few years running on my own personal bestest-EVAR! list. The backing musical accompaniment is spare as spare gets, unobtrusive yet at the same time indispensable; meanwhile, the intricate, shifting vocal harmonies are so gorgeously lush they make the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up. Overall, the above version is so tight you could bounce a quarter off it, so squeakity-clean you could serve dinner on it. The only real complaint I can make about it is that it’s over too soon.
Hey, Christmas ain’t over till I SAY it’s over, dammit!
Actually, I’m thinking I’ll supplant ol’ Scrooge Picard with the regular CF theme this weekend, which is earlier than I usually would. For many years, I made it my practice to adhere strictly to Elvis’s tradition of leaving the tree and decorations up until January 8th, which was his birthday. But since we started earlier than usual this year with the Christmas makeover, well, what the heck.
Update! The instrument that opens the second song, if I’m not mistaken, is not an oboe but the somewhat-rare English horn, which you could maybe think of as an oboe with bigger balls.
What is the difference between an English horn and an oboe?
An English horn and the oboe both come from the same double-reed family of instruments. The main difference is that the English horn is one and a half times longer than the oboe and features a pear-shaped bell that the oboe does not have. Also, they are considered instruments that are alto and soprano in sound, that is, the English horn and oboe, respectively. They are both double-reed instruments, with the English horn having a wider reed than the oboe.
The English horn is an F instrument that also features a wider reed and metal tube that the reed attaches to. The reed is usually tied together with a metal wire. The oboe is a C instrument that has a thinner reed attached to cork and which fits directly on the main body. The oboe has a higher-pitched sound, while the English horn features a more smooth, darker sound. They both feature the same keys and fingerings, and usually, a musician that can play one can play the other.
It can be said that the oboe and English horn were developed in the late 1600s and early 1700s, but double-reed instruments date back to 2500 BC in the city of Ur. With only three or four holes at that time to play notes and double reed, musicians at that time played their music.
The double reed instruments like the oboe and the English horn have come a long way since their beginnings. They are now primarily manufactured in France and the United States of America as well as England. These are where the elite instruments are currently being made for the orchestras of today.
Never having had much interest in the woodwind family of instruments, I’ve never attempted to learn either the oboe or the English horn. They both make truly beautiful music, so maybe that was a mistake on my part, I dunno.