Christmas in Music


The warning is mandatory: if you feel like the old Scrooge of Dickens, and in December come assaulted by an uncontrollable urge to take the elves of Santa Claus and bury them all with a branch of holly planted in your heart, you should be away from these lines. The music of the holidays, you know, cannot escape the inevitable triumph of bells, reindeer and snowflakes. Even at tropical latitudes.

The ritual is quite accurate: wisely ignored in the rest of the year, with arrogance emerges in these days and you will not spring any more. All events that accompany the Christmas season are crowned with songs that recall ancient traditions and popular culture. Music has always convey emotions, push to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, enrich the pleasure of shooting on the street looking at the lights and decorations.

No matter whether sacred or profane. Each one has its own weaknesses and tunes of the heart. The breadth of repertoire has this beautiful: the Christmas theme has endless variations, not always trivial, not always hostage to the rhetorical “good feelings” or an induced and apparent joy. Indeed, among those most detectors, there are just the songs more reflective, and those who, gently mixed with irony, tell the other side of Christmas.

Imagine the morning of Advent: clear sky, cold air, tolling bells and everything. The first sound we hear is that one of a bagpipe. During the Christmas period the streets, the alleys, the houses on the island of Ischia, are invaded by the sweet, melancholy sound of pipers, the old players who announce the novena of the Immaculate Conception and invite the wait. Their shape, like so many others linked to folk traditions, disappearing without losing part of its charm. Do you get to use, for example, that one morning, including traffic noise and booing brigade, arrives from the streets suddenly a sound that gradually becomes more intense, an unusual sound and at the same time family who knows the Christmas party and snow even when the snow is not there? It is a bagpipe. Halfway between the religious and the mundane, is part of the tradition of choral music, one of the artistic present almost everywhere and more resistant to the coldness of modernity. Although the choir were originally intended to be sung a cappella in churches, already in the past several composers and they arranged singing melodies for multiple entries with the instrumental score. The songs, so full of grace, beauty and evocation, are often used in Masses and liturgical rites, along with arias, recitatives, choruses and other musical forms. The offer, in these days, is immense. In the churches of the island, usually in the early afternoon, the choir offering a kaleidoscope of sounds and ideas, fishing in the most diverse repertoires for inspiration, compositional technique, geographical and temporal. It will be easier to listen to famous songs taken from the European folk tradition as the French “Les anges dans nos campagnes” and “Noël nouvelet”, the Austrian “Stille Nacht”, the English “God rest you merry, Gentlemen”. And yet “Quanno nascette Ninno”, the precious musical heritage of Naples, and the magnificent “O magnum mysterium” by Francis Poulenc, a song that takes the listener’s attention on the mystery of the atmosphere instead of lavish Christmas party. Moreover, the list of the greatest composers in the history of music that have grappled with the sacred is endless: Mozart, Vivaldi, Patriquin, Schubert, Haydn, Handel. Obviously Johann Sebastian Bach and his “Christmas Oratorio”, which always satisfies the expert and impress the listener even easier. The alternation of brilliant moments, pastoral atmosphere, intimate moments and reflective passages of high virtuosity and inspiration, was masterfully built by the German composer to revive the listener with genuine emotion, every moment of the story of the Nativity.

The Christmas spirit in music does not feed just classic rhythms. At the right time and the right place, can happen to come across in the course of joyful music bands. Sometimes disguised as Santa Claus or even witches, the musicians give life to traveling concerts performing the most famous songs of the Christmas tradition in the up and Dixieland style. But where anarchy reigns is at home. If the children scream out loud “Jingle bells” waiting to unwrap the presents, the adults range from Christmas’carol vintage (with Sinatra, Dean Martin and Pat Boone to patronise), excerpts from “Cantata dei Pastori” by De Simone, hit of the UK in the 80s (“Do they know it’s Cristmas”) and even some daring hybrid copyright (because with Christmas songs it has experimented with anyone, even Bob Dylan). A title that puts all agree? “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby. It’s like the traditional cake, the tree, the crib. Without these elements, it would not be Christmas. At least for 70 years now.


Adeste Fideles - Anonymous 
God rest you Merry, Gentlemen - King's College Choir 
The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole 
Winter Wonderland - Pat Boone 
Let It Snow Let It Snow Let It Snow - Dean Martin 
A fairytale in New York – The Pogues 
Last Christmas – The Wham 
River - Joni Mitchell 
Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town - The Jackson Five 
All I want for Christmas is you - Mariah Carey 
Jingle bells rock – Bobby Helms 
Happy Xmas (war is over) - John Lennon Yoko Ono 

by Gianluca Castagna

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Info on Ischia island

  • Surface: 46 Kmq
  • Hight: 789 mt
  • Lat.: 40° 44',82 N
  • Long.: 13° 56',58 E
  • Periplus: 18 miglia
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