19 December 2009

Music: Whose Christmas is it?

Musician and author Michael Feinstein's New York Times op-ed - Whose Christmas Is It? - is an interesting read, focused on the fact that much popular Christmas music was written by Members of the Tribe.

Tracing the Tribe has written on this previously; click here.

Read Feinstein's piece here. He addresses a weekend of Christmas concerts he did about 10 years ago, accompanied by a California regional symphony. He played a program of holiday classics the first night, but before the second concert, an orchestra board representative told him the program was "too Jewish." There had been complaints.

What provoked the complaints? Feinstein had mentioned the first night between numbers that almost all popular Christmas songs were written by Jews.

He opened the second concert with "We Need a Little Christmas," by MOT Jerry Herman.

Feinstein also mentions the evolution of Christmas as demonstrated in its music, which is more secular, and about Santa, sleighs and reindeer.
Yet I also hope that those who feel this encroachment will on some level understand that the spirit of the holiday is universal. We live in a multicultural time and the mixing, and mixing up, of traditions is an inevitable result. Hence we have the almost century-old custom of American Jews creating a lot more Christmas music than Hanukkah music.
Here's Feinstein's list of some of the most popular Christmas songs, written by other MOTs.

Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” Mel Tormé's “The Christmas Song,” “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Silver Bells,” “Santa Baby,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Winter Wonderland.” Most were written for Tin Pan Alley and appeared in sheet music, not in a show or film.

However, Feinstein says Israel Baline's - excuse me, Irving Berlin's - "White Christmas was introduced in the film, "Holiday Inn," while another classic, "Silver Bells" appeared in "The Lemon Drop Kid."

Read why some very famous Jewish songwriters are not in this list, such as Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Richard Rodgers and Harold Arlen.

Feinstein shares his idea of seasonal expressions:

It doesn’t take Freud to figure out that the sugarplums, holly and mistletoe all tap into a sense of comfort, longing, security and peace that so many fervently desire; that we all wish the clichés were true. As Jews, Christians, Muslims, Mormons, Buddhists and everything in between, we are all more alike than we are different.
Read Feinstein's complete piece at the link above, as well as Tracing the Tribe's post.

1 comment:

  1. JimmyDaGeek8:40 PM

    To keep with the theme, read this sour rant by Garrison Keillor: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.keillor16dec16,0,225627.story