The smooth jazz stylings of Tony Bennett and Michael Bublé, the raunch of early Elvis when he belted out  “Santa Claus is Back in Town,” classics such as “O Holy Night,” and campy fun like “Grandma Got Run Over by A Reindeer.” 

We all have our own holiday music favourites, and the Advocate asked a few prominent local musicians about their favourites. Unsurprisingly, holiday songs they’ve known since childhood top the list.

For Ashley George, the Pictou singer-songwriter whose music over the years has encompassed several styles, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton are a Christmas tradition.  

“As a child, my parents would play the Kenny and Dolly Christmas album, so it was always a part of the holidays and still is to this day,” said George. “The last few years I started listening to Michael Bublé’s Christmas album. His arrangements and smooth vocals make it very easy an enjoyable to have on around the tree.”

And what would Christmas be without those fun favourites?

“’Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer’ always stuck out to me because it’s not so serious of a Christmas song,” George added. “I also learned that one for a few Christmas shows in the past. I’d figure it would be a safe one nobody would be covering.”

Pictou County folk artist Dave Gunning has released a pair of holiday-themed albums: Christmas and Christmas Too.

“There’s just so many beautiful Christmas songs and when people are together every year, the songs plant themselves over time,” he said. “It connects to nostalgia and memories — good memories, sad memories.”

Asked what songs he would choose if he could perform just two holiday songs, he had to ponder, but finally managed two picks. “People find ‘Daddy’s Beer’ funny and I like it when people laugh,” he said. “And ‘Silent Night’ is just so beautiful when people sing along to it.”

Central Nova MP Sean Fraser is known as a bagpiper, but also sings and plays guitar. A woman at his office told the Advocate that he can “out-do the Rankins.” “We always had the Boney M Christmas album when I was a kid,” Fraser said. “But I like the upbeat ones — ‘Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,’ ‘Jingle Bell Rock.’”

Robyn Alcorn-Martin, who teaches music at Northumberland Regional High School, also cited nostalgia when asked why holiday classics never go away.

“Some of these songs are hundreds of years old,” she explained. “A lot of them are European that made their way over here. The melodies and themes of hope and peace are so beautiful.”

For example, two Frenchmen wrote “O Holy Night” in the 1840s, before American John Sullivan Dwight translated it. “Christmas Tree” is a German Christmas song, “O Tannenbaum” that will turn 200 years old next year, and is based on a folk song written in the 16th century. 

When Alcorn-Martin’s students prepare to perform Christmas songs at the school, they usually start working on them after Remembrance Day. 

“They have three or four weeks of practise to play them for their families,” she said. “But because these songs are so familiar to them, they catch on quite quick. But these songs are literally ingrained in their DNA.”


By admin