Amy tweeted recently:
Salvation Army Brass band. So wonderfully Christmassy. So weird in warm early morning sunshine. Can’t quite process this yet.
— Amy (@Cat_knits) December 2, 2013
and in a wibbly wobbly timey wimey whoosh I was 7 or 8 again, standing in the Town Centre in my home town, playing 3rd Cornet, cringing any time anyone from School walked past. And they did. At least once. Because that’s where everyone did their Christmas shopping, and it’s hard to be inconspicuous when you’re playing Christmas Carols for 4 hours the four Saturdays leading up to Christmas.
So for me too, Christmas sounds like the Salvation Army band.
It sounds like Carols (common and obscure), Collecting tins and catcalls. It sounds like people asking for their favourite Carol to be played. It sounds like the watery bubbling of brass instruments full of spit, needing to be emptied. It sounds like the scraping of chairs and music stands on fake marble floor tiles. It sounds like the hustle and bustle of Christmas Shopping going on all around us. It sounds like Hallelujahs and Angels singing.
It sounds like years of getting the shit kicked out of me at school because I kept standing there, Saturday after Saturday in December, making myself obviously other.
It sounds like the clang of barbed wire gates and stern instructions on what and what not to do as we arrived at a local Prison to bring them the Christmas message.
It sounds like the beep of machines as we toured the local hospital on Christmas morning. Playing Carols and distributing presents to those unfortunate enough to be spending their Christmas there.
It sounds like the distant wail of a relative who just lost a beloved grandparent who let go of their hold on this world after hearing their favourite Carol played one last time.
It sounds like obligations and charity and putting others before yourself and frankly, it’s a bit difficult to go home and get stuck in to Turkey and Trimmings and the Queen and Quality Street when all you can think about is the people whose relative just died, or who are spending the day in hospital, or alone.
Since taking off my bonnet and hanging up my Cornet I’ve spent more Christmases with other families than my own, for various reasons, and so am a bit adrift when it comes to traditions and apathetic when it comes to Christmas at all but also conscious that there’s a tiny human in the picture now and so for the last couple of years I’ve been attempting to get myself past my Christmas aversion, and untangle myself from the web of sonic associations and it started with a Spotify playlist.
So here it is.
Have a listen, add some tracks if the spirit moves you, but most of all, tell me…
What does Christmas sound like to you?
Nice one, Pix – that’s lovely. (Even without the Spotify addition)
For me the ideal sound is probably silence, although that’s still incredibly rare. But it’s the Christmas sound I like – not through being a Grinch/Grouch (well not much) but just through being surrounded by noise most of the time.
I’m not a big fan of christmas songs (Slade etc) but I secretly enjoy carols, which always take me back to the christmas I spent in Australia when I was ten. For some reason we went to a lot of carol concerts and always came away with a songsheet. I rather like a silence after lunch, though.
My dad never misses 9 lessons and carols from Kings – that takes me back to my childhood christmas’s. In recent years the sound track has been dominated by my sister’s new Christmas cd’s along with her playlist of folky verisons of Christmas carols. The Bob Dylan Christmas album is utterly bizarre but entertaining.
Lovely post. What I said previously about appreciating certain Christmas traditions even though I don’t like the festive season much would definitely apply to the sounds of carols from King’s and the sound of a Salvation Army brass band playing carols. I haven’t been able to bring myself to listen to the latter for a few years, for various reasons, but I think I might try this year.
Choirs. This is when I haul out the Elmer Isler Singers and the scratchy St Martins in the Fields recordings.
Can’t access or add to your playlist because Spotify despises Canada.
Love Carols from King’s and John Rutter (from years of singing in choirs) and secretly Michael Buble. Brass bands make me cry, as does away in a Manger and Little Donkey, as sung by small children.
(Cry in a good way.)
I’m keeping my powder dry here …. I’m writing about Xmas music on the 11th. Suffice it to say that I love seasonal music, but I’m very tired of the same old songs we hear every year. There’s plenty of beautiful stuff out there, from medieval carols to songs released each and every year. I don’t mind Slade, particularly…. I’m just sick of it. I was a chorister though, and I’ve retained a soft-spot for that part of the season, if for nothing else religious.
I’m just on my way back from my work’s outing to Trafalgar Square for our annual attempt to stay vaguely in tune for an hour while standing in front of a ginormous Christmas tree with people in carrot, apple and hippo costumes trying to collect money for the charity (yes, we are odd).
I have an issue with carols in that some (most) of the lyrics are creepy and weird, and loads of them don’t even scan properly. Which makes me start giggling in the middle of singing them. Probably not the most appropriate response!
When I was a child we always listened to the same cassette of Johnny Mathis singing Christmas songs, basically on repeat for a whole month. That will always be the correct sound of Christmas to me.