Tag Archives: traditional

Snow Wonder – a new traditional Christmas carol

 

I was out in Penticton, BC once in early October. Had spent the day doing non-outdoorsy winestuff. It was pouring really hard. Went to a couple wineries, tried  and bought some wine, brought it home, chopped some wood, (I guess that counts as out-doorsy), started a fire, cooked dinner logsand sat down to drink some more wine.

 

 

 

As is my usual custom when I am sitting about not doing much of anything, I grabbed my guitar. The blustery weather put me in the mood to do something I had thought of doing before but hadn’t – write a Christmas song. It happened very quickly. I just started picking on a D chord and decided to try a descending bass line with an ascending melody would be d chordinteresting. The second chord was a rough one but necessary – a chordA/C# – with another high A at the top. Yes, I know you non-players don’t know what that means – let’s just say it is pretty rough making that transition from a D.

 

 

 

The whole song was written in about 45 minutes, at least, the main guitar part. There were still other parts.

My beautiful Larivee D-03
My beautiful Larivee D-03

 

Those mostly came in the studio when the layering of the various instruments was to take place. You see, it was meant to be a song evocative of the Christmas’s of my generations music studioyouth, (as can be seen in the video).

 

 

 

Now, my generation, who grew up in the ’60’s and ’70’s, was NOT the generation which used candles on trees and popcorn on a string as an ornament but we were damn close. We had shopping mall Santa and Charlie Brown Christmas and the Rudolph TV show in that strange animation, (it will air another 428 times this December in Calgary – maybe more in your town). We had eggnog, staying up later and getting up early and family get togethers, charlie brown xmasneighbourhood parties, caroling door to door and, most importantly as relating to the video, who could forget that we had “Go play outside!” from the adults. And we would. For hours. And hours. Even in this frigid city.rudolph

 

 

 

I think that instruments like the shakey bells that the Salvation Army people shake in the malls and the organ are considered by my generation to be traditional instruments, as are tubular bells, music box(main melody) and the music box, (accompanying the guitar as the background music).

 

tubular bells

 

I will grant you that the tertiary melody played with guitar harmonics make be a bit of a stretch when defining tradition but …

 

I think the song is really a nice guitar backdrop with a series of contrapuntal melodies weaving around on top. Yet, to my ear at least, it never gets dizzyingly complicated. In fact, because the tubular bells tend to dominate, you might miss the other guitar playing along-side them. The shakers definitely get subsumed by all the other instruments but they are there throughout, (the verse).geoffreycode_snowwonder

 

Regarding the video, it is vintage footage taken from the Prelinger Archives, mixed with some silly footage of me playing my guitar in various places around the beautiful city of Kimberley BC. Great snowstorm that day. Took some footage of me playing the keyboard too but it just doesn’t have the same edginess as walking around with a guitar in a snowstorm.

 

 

Snow Wonder – A Christmas Album

I will admit the landscape is not completely barren. All I Want For Christmas is a pretty catchy song. I still consider it a new entry into the canon of Christmas carols – and it came out in 1993! imagesmariah

 

Of course, some people consider that rather dreary version of Little Drummer Boy that David Bowie concocted with Bing Crosby to be a new entry.

I suppose new entries into this market are so rare, that even old entries are considered new.

8_McCartney

There are some Christmas carols that are good, (O Holy Night – Jon Anderson), some are corny, (Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney and Wings), some are uplifting and some are just plain bad, (Jingle Bell Rock anybody?) And we get to hear them for six weeks every year.

anderson

Rather than complain about it, I did what any sensible musician would do – recorded my own Christmas album. Snow Wonder.

 

The album, (or, more properly, the EP) is six songs – four covers and two originals.

 

The covers are as follows:

Silent Night. Recorded with four guitars it retains its serenity and pastoral feel, (except maybe with that bent note near the end of the third verse. I considered re-doing that but left it in. It still buffaloes me.)

O Holy Night. A raucous affair featuring even more guitars layered up that Silent Night. The slides, which occur throughout the song, have always reminded me of the architecture of a Medieval Cathedral – purpose built to get you to gaze towards the heaven, so the soaring guitars are played to up-lift the listener.

geoffreycode_snowwonder

In The Bleak Midwinter – More of a Winter than a Christmas song but it certainly captures the mood of the title. Yet, the song is pretty enjoyable and brings out that certain melancholy one feels in the bleak mid-winter.

The Wassail Song – a nod toward the New Year after all the Christmas celebrating is done.

The two originals are called Snow Wonder and When the Flowers and the Dust Have Gone. I will post more about these two songs in the lead up toward Christmas. Oh, and, uh, Merry Christmas to all!

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