Archive for February 9th, 2008

Let it Snow x 3

You may not believe it, but I spend inordinate amounts of time surfing the web. One day idly paging through Wikipedia’s list of Number-one hits, I discovered that the song “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow” performed by Vaughn Monroe was the number one song in the USA for five weeks in 1946. This surprised me for two reasons. One, I never thought of this little ditty we sing at Christmas time as hit record material. Two, the song charted in the weeks from January 26 to February 23, well after the Christmas season was over.

Listen to Vaugh Monroe perform “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!”

You may also watch him perform the song live.

Of course, if you look at the lyrics for “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” as written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne you’ll realize that the song has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. It is merely a love song set in wintertime. I’ve long wondered why so many songs we sing at Christmas time have nothing to do with Christmas at all. “Sleigh Ride,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Marshmallow World,” and perhaps the most ubiquitous “Christmas” carol of all “Jingle Bells.” It’s become a cliche to add the notes of the “Jingle Bells” chorus to the end of a recording of any Christmas song, but there’s nary a mention of Christmas in the lyrics. Couldn’t one enjoy a vigorous sleigh ride through the country in January, February, or even March?

That many popular Christmas songs of the 20th century were written by Jewish songwriters may play a part in the emphasis of winter imagery over baby Jesus and Santa Claus. But I think that at one time people liked to sing songs about the winter. If you think about it, the way these winter songs have been typecast as Christmas carols would be kind of like only playing Gershwin’s “Summertime” on the 4th of July with patriotic songs like “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.”

So I’ve come up with an idea. Now that we are a week past Groundhog’s Day*, why don’t we have a national celebration of wintertime by singing and playing these old classics. It could be an annual tradition every year from February 9-15 to acknowledge that whether the groundhog saw his shadow or not that we can make the best of what remains of winter in a joyous carnival of singing.

Who’s with me?

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

 

* Note: I also have a great carol for Groundhog’s Day.

Ireland/Britain 1998 day 20: Glasgow

In the morning, I stumbled down for breakfast in SYHA hostel. It was a crummy breakfast, but included in the price, and I was getting my money’s worth on 9 February 1998. In the breakfast room, the big, hairy Hells Angels type of guy who did most of the smoking and shouting the previous night sat down right across with me and tried to strike up a conversation. As if he had not been the most inconsiderate person in the world. As if he didn’t know that I loathed him with every fiber of my being. Luckily, I was too tired to speak my mind and responded only with non-committal grunts.

There actually is an independent hostel in Glasgow, their flyer posted to lampposts by the SYHA hostel as if they were freedom pamphlets for poor travelers stuck in overpriced rooms with brutish thugs. So I checked out of the SYHA hostel and checked into Globetrotters Hostel. I was shown to a funky room called the Death Star and assigned to a bunk called Darth Vader. In the kitchen, sesame bread with butter, jam and lemon curd was freely available. Much better.

Glasgow reminds me of Philadelphia, kind of grubby and rundown but with marvelous cultural institutions in unexpected places. I visited two museums this day, both of which were excellent. First I visited the St. Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art. The collection included well-interpreted and presented artifacts of religious traditions from throughout the world. I don’t think there’s any other museum I’ve ever seen quite like it. Next I visited The Burrell Collection, a spectacular modern building with a fantastic collection of stained glass and medieval tapestries among other things.

It was a good day for museums as the wind was so fierce that the rain fell sideways and I was completely soaked after waiting for the bus to the Burrell Collection. My umbrella was toast and I was down to my last pair of clean pants. That evening I attempted to catch up on my laundry, and went to a laundromat my guidebook claimed was open until 9 pm. The lights were on, the door was open, people were doing there laundry, and there were no hours or closed sign on the door. So I went and started filling a washing machine when the old woman who ran the place came over and yelled at me that the laundromat was closed. I steamed in rage as I stomped back to the hostel.

In the lounge I joined the other guests reading questions from Trivial Pursuit cards. My favorite question that came up that night: “What is the largest city in Scotland?” They were nice people but I didn’t really bond with them. As I wrote in my journal “they’re all Australians looking for work and I’m an American on holiday at a stupid time of the year.”

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral reflects off the sodden square it shares with St. Mungo’s Museum.

Thinker & Otter

Art at the Burrell Colection: The Thinker by August Rodin, 1880, bronze. The Otter by K&M International, 1992, polyester fiber.

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