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The Journal Gazette


Thursday, December 06, 2018 1:00 am

Sharing favorite Christmas music

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

Most of us have our favorite Christmas songs (and probably a few that we'd be fine with never hearing again).

There are classics from the likes of Bing Crosby and Elvis, covers of classics from contemporary singers, carols and hymns, kiddie ditties and, of course, new tracks that rarely become as popular. No shopping trip or family Christmas tradition seems complete without holiday tunes playing in the background – even if it is “Last Christmas” by Wham!, which seems to be on an endless loop this time of year.

Here is what some local folks had to say by email and social media when asked about their favorite holiday song or album:

• “The Voice” Season 13 runner-up Addison Agen says “Grown Up Christmas List” by Amy Grant is her favorite Christmas song.

“I used to sing this with my Mom, and I remember a few times crying while singing it,” she says. “It's just such a great reminder of the things that we should be grateful for and also the things that we should be working towards.”

• Local singer Alicia Pyle is performing her favorite tune for the first time this year with the Alicia Pyle Quartet, but it brings up memories of days gone by.

“(Everybody's Waitin' for) The Man with the Bag,” sung by Kay Starr, reminds Pyle of her family gathered on Christmas Eve at her maternal grandparents' log cabin in Huntington. Her grandfather John Sutton was the father of eight girls, so there were plenty of grandchildren running around.

“We'd wait with anticipation for Santa to 'arrive' with his big bag full of our little trinkets and gifts from my grandma (Betty Sutton),” Pyle says. “Santa of course was always one of the uncles dressed up in disguise, but we didn't know ... or pretended not to!”

Her grandparents have died and the cabin burned down, but the 1950s song “peaks these warm memories every time I hear it played, and brings back the best years and best holidays of my life.”

APQ will perform the song at a Toys for Tots fundraiser Friday at the Cottage Event Center in Roanoke.

• Eunice Wadewitz, music and education director at Civic Theatre, has a favorite album that you might not have heard of.

“I grew up a preacher's kid, learning classical music, and one album we listened to over and over again, was 'Amahl and the Night Visitors' by Gian Carlo Menotti,” she says, adding that she still thinks of it as a favorite.

The television opera was commissioned by NBC and performed for the first time on Christmas Eve 1951 when it was broadcast live as the debut production of the Hallmark Hall of Fame. It tells the story of a boy and his mother who meet the Three Kings who are on their way to give gifts to Jesus.

“When it comes to favorite song, I have to say that it's not Christmas until I've heard 'I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day,'” Wadewitz says, specifying that she loves it sung in an alternate tune (like a version by Bing Crosby) than people might be familiar with.

• “I like the classics,” says local singer Chris Worth, singling out “I'll Be Home for Christmas” as one that always puts him in the spirit.

• Caleb Young, assistant conductor of Fort Wayne Philharmonic, says his favorite holiday album is “The Music of Christmas” by the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra conducted by Carmen Dragon.

Young is conducting the Philharmonic's Holiday Pops, which includes shows at Embassy Theatre on Friday, Saturday and Dec. 15.

• Maddie Miller, gallery coordinator at Artlink, has four must-listen albums for the holidays: “Christmas with the Rat Pack” with songs from Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.; “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas” from Ella Fitzgerald; “A Very She & Him Christmas” by She & Him; and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by the Vince Guarldi Trio.

• Renee Cummings of 97.3 WMEE is partial to “Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney.

“It was one of my grandma's favorite Christmas songs so it has always stuck with me,” she says.

• “Anything from Ray Conniff,” says local filmmaker Glenn Berggoetz.

• It's “Little Drummer Boy” by Kenny Burrell and “Christmastime is Here” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio for Kevin Erb.

• Tom Kirk singles out Dean Martin's rendition of “It's a Marshmallow World.”