Green Grows the Holly 16
I found this gentle madrigal in The Oxford Book of Carols , attributed to the not-so-gentle Henry VIII. It leads us through the seasons, ending in winter.
People, Look East trad. French; words by Eleanor Farjeon
My favorite hymn, for its French élan and vivid images. I especially love the practical command to "make your house fair as you are able." The accompaniment is the kalimba, or African thumb piano. I've strayed far from its roots as essentially a rhythm instrument, turning it into a multi-tracked music box. What fun!
The Cherry Tree Carol trad. Europe & America
A wonderful example of a folk song that "embroiders" around the basic Christmas story. Mary is, of course, meek and mild, but she has the best retort and the last word in this imagined marital spat.
Il est Né, le Divin Enfant trad. French
Taken from my CD Gathered Safely In . The French are always dancing.
Lo, How a Rose E'er-Blooming Michael Praetorius, 1609
One of my very favorite carols, which I've sung often in choir. I adapted the harmonies so I could do all the parts myself (studio indulgence).
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear Edmund Sears & Richard Willis
This gorgeous melody is blessed with words that had particular resonance when I sang them; the bombing of Serbia was at its height.
The Twelve Days of Christmas trad. English
Wherever will we put all these presents? Fifty people, and their pipes and drums, eight cows, 23 birds, five rings and a tree. Quick, more birdseed!
In the Bleak Midwinter trad. tune;
verse 1 by Christina Rossetti; verses 2-4 by Diane Taraz
I've always greatly admired the first verse of this song for its perfect evocation of winter's desolation, and wished more from the verses to follow. Now I've written three more verses to celebrate the Winter Solstice, the longest and darkest night of the year.
Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabella Nicola Saboly (1614-1675)
This gorgeous lullaby comes from my CD Shoes That Fit Like Sand . Roger Kimball played the cello and arranged the strings.
Auld Lang Syne trad. tune; words by Robert Burns
This is the melody that Burns originally chose for his poem. His publisher thought another was better, and that's the familiar tune sung by millions on New Year's Eve. The older you get, the more these words reflect your life.
Angels We Have Heard on High trad. French
A kalimba extravaganza, possible only in the studio. You can play only two notes at a time on the thumb piano, since you have only two thumbs, so this piece was built up slowly with many passes on separate tracks.
Silent Night Joseph Mohr & Franz Gruber
I couldn't resist this peaceful classic. The guitar is in open-G tuning.
Cover art: Detail from les échecs amoreux (Romantic Reverses) , by Louise de Savoie, in the collection of the National Library of France. Late 15 th century.