No Christmas music list would be complete without two groups: one is Trans Siberian Orchestra (and was #2 on this list) and the other is Mannheim Steamroller. Both are now staples around the holidays and have been around for a while, although I was surprised how long Mannheim Steamroller had been around (Since 1974! TSO began in 1993). While I could listen to TSO for hours on end (and, I have) Mannheim is better in smaller doses (at least in my opinion). I have almost every Mannheim Steamroller CD and if you listen to all their songs at once, they have a tendency to all start to sound the same – at least the popular ones that get the radio air time around Christmas.
Fresh Aire Christmas is different. Of all of their albums, this one gets consistently gets the most play in my library. As far as I’ve heard on the radio, only one track gets public attention (Hark! The Herald Angels Sing) but there are several real gems on this recording that are worth checking out.
- Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – In typical Mannheim style (they really like the bouncing bass line and the constant arpeggios on the piano/harpsichord/bells)
- Veni, Veni Emmanuel (in English, O Come, O Come Emmanuel) – I love that it starts with Gregorian Chant. The Latin gives it a sense of being timeless. I think that’s one thing that sets this album apart is their use of real voices and instruments with their usual computerized and synthesized instruments. My favorite part happens between 3:00 and 3:20.
- Still, Still, Still – Another one that incorporates voices. Best part – when they go acapella at 2:33.
- Cantique De Noel (in English, O Holy Night) – A beautiful and simple arrangement that swells throughout, yet ends as quietly as it began.
I guess you could say that I really like the ones that are out of character for Mannheim Steamroller. Not that I don’t like their usual stuff, I just really like their unique songs. What about you? Any of your favorites not make the list?
Stay tuned for more Essential Music for Christmas as I continue exploring the must-play music of the season.