Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New York Voices, Let it Snow

Ah, the holidays. As I grow older I find them more an ordeal, more "happy" only if your life is happy, otherwise a time where you feel the loss of loved ones, of lives long left-behind, a promise of peace that never seems to come for long, of an increasing lack of good will out there. Now of course there is the religious aspect and I respect the transformative power that can have, whether it be in the form of Chanukah or Christmas. Being perennially musical of course, to me the right music can give me happiness...but no, NOT via the co-optation of Black Friday (now Thursday too) nightmarish commercials with those insane shopping madwomen and madmen racing down aisles in the middle of the night to save a dollar on God-knows-what while "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" archly plays in the background. If I never hear "Jingle Bells" on those ads again I will not be unhappy.

But of course the Holiday Season is about traditions, cultural stretch and longevity, and music can bring that home in very powerful ways.

That can be nearly infinite, depending on your upbringing and local history. A tradition can be renewed and can speak to us. So we turn to something that does that well. New York Voices is a vocal group that goes beyond groups like Manhattan Transfer, reaches back to the close harmony tradition of the vocal groups that were often an important part of big bands, like the one with Dorsey that included a young Sinatra if I remember right. I never used to like that much when I was younger. But now I recognize that if it is done well and tastefully, it is a real force of expression. That's how I feel about New York Voices, in particular their Christmas/Holiday album Let It Snow (Five Cent Records 0001).

They give us a mix of secular and more traditional songs, "We Three Kings," "I Wonder as I Wander," Bach's beautiful "Sleepers, Wake!" and "Christmas Time is Here", too. The trick is all about the skillful singing, the arrangements for the voices as well as a big band. They are very good. It's the sort of music my dad would have liked, RIP to him. And as a kid I would have listened too.

Now we can only look back but from the point of view of a changed world. But nonetheless this is first-rate, tasteful fare. You want holiday, you can get something worthwhile with New York Voices.

"From now on our troubles will be out of sight?" Not for some of us, those of us who will go through the Winter without heat, possibly without food, possibly without shelter. As long as I still have electricity I'll give this one a few more spins before the new year is upon us. And I am very particular, as you have gathered. So I hope all this season you can kindle some joy. This is to you!

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