1. 2020

    Frosty The Snowman by Mannheim Steamroller

    Frosty’s gettin’ down in Mannheim Steamroller’s arrangement of Frosty The Snowman. I have no idea how they came up with this one, but it’s bold, kind of trippy, and a ton of fun. Very much unlike any Christmas song you’d hear from anyone other than Mannheim Steamroller.

    In fact, this song bears only a passing resemblance to the classic tune. It does include the original melody in some parts, but there’s only just enough of that to remind you that it is Frosty The Snowman they’re playing. Most of the music is a techno beat with different riffs played over it. The liner notes hinted at a video of Frosty doing a techno dance to this song, but I don’t think that ever materialized, which is a shame because it would have to be amazing.

    Have a listen and add some funk to your Christmas playlists!

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  2. 2020

    Winter Wonderland by Eurythmics

    Eurythmics’ version of Winter Wonderland, today’s Christmas song, might be a bit more of a niche taste than most other songs on this list. It doesn’t do anything fancy, in fact it sticks pretty close to the classic melody and lyrics, but the instrumentation has a distinctly 80’s style. I grew up on 80’s music, so I’m all for that, but unlike most of the other songs I’ve posted, it doesn’t do anything really special that makes me want to evangelize it.

    Still, it’s my list. I’ve been enjoying this song ever since I was a little kid, so it would feel wrong to leave it out. And I do legitimately think it fits well into a mix with a lot of my other favorites. See what you think!

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  3. 2020

    Carol Of The Bells by Mannheim Steamroller

    Today’s Christmas song is a bit of a wild one, but it’s an absolutely brilliant piece of writing. Mannheim Steamroller’s arrangement of Carol Of The Bells starts out with the classic melody but quickly jumps through so many different orchestrations, variations, and entirely new themes that you could almost call it an original piece inspired by Carol Of The Bells. It’s got bells of all kinds, a rockin’ drum beat, intense bass, and little brass fanfares sprinkled in throughout. Nearly half the piece is written in a major key, providing a great contrast to the minor key of the original.

    Of course, the original carol is really repetitive, especially without words, so they had to do something to make an instrumental arrangement interesting. But it could have been terrible. It’s a testament to the brilliance of Mannheim Steamroller that all the ornaments they added work together beautifully. Turn your volume up and have a listen.

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  4. 2020

    Up On The Housetop by Pentatonix

    Normally I’m not a fan of a capella, but Pentatonix is doing something kind of special here. They’re incredibly good at making their voices sound like, well, not voices, and they’re so precise they sync up as well as the best instrumental groups. It’s hard to believe that this is only people singing.

    Their upbeat rendition of Up On The Housetop is one of my favorite arrangements of this tune. When I first heard it, this track almost singlehandedly impressed me so much that I bought three of their albums (which I’m not sure was a worth it in retrospect, but I digress). It’s mostly true to the original melody and lyrics, but they give it an edge with off-key transitions between verses. The whole song comes together really well and I definitely recommend it.

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  5. 2020

    I Saw Three Ships by Jon Schmidt

    Many of my favorite Christmas songs are pretty intense, driving rock or upbeat pop. Today, I have something very different.

    Jon Schmidt’s arrangement of I Saw Three Ships is a solo piano piece. The whole song is based on the rhythm of the main melody, so it’s “straightforward” in a sense. But I’m amazed at how rich he manages to makes the song while sticking to that simple motif. It builds up from the simple melody at the beginning to add more and more complex variations, harmonies, and countermelodies at every repetition, until he returns to the original melody to conclude the piece.

    Despite only being three minutes long, there’s a lot to keep your ear interested in this one. I actually listed to the song on loop probably 25 times while writing this post, and if anything I like it even more now than when I started.

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  6. 2020

    Little Drummer Boy by Mannheim Steamroller

    Mannheim Steamroller’s rendition of Little Drummer Boy is another one of those songs that I’d put in the running for my all-time favorite. It starts with a simple snare drum and progressively adds on layers of other instruments, first synths and then later transitioning to acoustic instruments, so the tambre evolves to become more “real” over the course of the song. By the time the song’s climax rolls around, there are several interacting layers of rhythm, but they blend together amazingly well. Whenever a composer manages to pull off that kind of complexity, I’m all ears.

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  7. 2020

    Ding Dong Merrily On High by Celtic Woman

    Today’s Christmas song, Ding Dong Merrily On High from Celtic Woman, features a really neat vocal effect. While part of the group is singing “ding dong” in the style of bells, in unison with the orchestral bells, others are holding the drawn-out notes of “glooooooriaaaaaaaa”. The juxtaposition of the two styles is a delightful listen.

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  8. 2020

    God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen by Mannheim Steamroller

    So what’s up with that comma?

    Today’s song, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen by Mannheim Steamroller, comes with an interesting historical anecdote on the side. “Rest ye merry” was a standard phrase in the English of the 16th century, when this carol likely originated, so the original meaning of the line would have been something like “may God grant you peace and happiness, gentlemen.”

    In contrast with “ye olde-style” punctuation, this arrangement is very modern, in the driving rock style that Mannheim Steamroller does so well. It also adds a bridge in the middle that modulates into a major key, which gives the song a really interesting splash of color.

    As a bonus, the album also includes a different version of this song which mixes modern punctuation with a lighter and older musical style.

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  9. 2020

    Parade of the Wooden Soldiers by the Boston Pops

    For today’s Christmas song I’m tapping in one of the classic titans of the Christmas music scene: the Boston Pops Orchestra. Their annual Holiday Pops concert, started in 1973, is one of the most famous Christmas concert series in the US, but holiday music has been a staple of the orchestra’s repertoire for much longer.

    This recording of Parade of the Wooden Soldiers — originally a piano march, but now frequently associated with Christmas — was recorded in 1959 and comes from one of the earliest Boston Pops albums available in digital form. The song features a lot of soloists and individual instrumental sections, but skillfully interleaves them with riffs played by the full orchestra. When you listen to the sophistication of the music, it’s easy to forget that the recording is 60 years old. You’ll want a few loops through this one.

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  10. 2020

    Christmas Song of the Day: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by Mannheim Steamroller

    Yes, this one is that “Hark!”.

    Mannheim Steamroller’s arrangement of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing takes the classic carol, mixes it up with a modern rock groove, and comes out with something fresh, exciting, and amazing. I particularly love how all the different synthesizer riffs interact in the bridge in the middle. It’s the perfect followup to yesterday’s “Trumpets”. In fact, I think the pairing of the two pieces takes another spot on my short list for all-time favorite Christmas song.

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.