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Guilty-pleasure carols
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Guilty-pleasure carols

It feels like the right time, with everyone watching Get Back on Disney+ and realizing anew that Paul McCartney is a musical genius, to make the case that Wonderful Christmastime is not, in fact, the worst Christmas carol ever penned. (That honour, of course, goes to Jingle Bells — do you know how many verses that tedious tune has?)

Honestly, Wonderful Christmastime is one of my favourites. It’s jaunty, non-denominational and has somehow managed to become a seasonal classic despite having one of the most dated, ridiculous synth sounds of all time.

This image released by Disney+ shows, background from left, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, and foreground from left, Yoko Ono and John Lennon in a scene from the nearly 8-hour Peter Jackson-produced documentary "Get Back." (Disney+ via AP)

Plus the message is sweet and simple. No need to roast chestnuts or go wassailing or write Christmas cards or build a snowman and pretend he’s Parson Brown. Just simply have a wonderful time (one the video seems to imply involves a fair bit of alcohol).

The party's on

The feelin's here

That only comes

This time of year

I can get behind that.

My colleague Jen Zoratti recently coined the term Jingle Fatigue to talk about the exhaustion we feel trying to live up to the frantic holiday schedule. The term made me think of a more literal interpretation: the way hearing carols constantly the moment Remembrance Day is over tends to drain them of any specialness. So this year, I imposed a moratorium: no intentional carol-listening until I’d put away the menorah after the last day of Hanukkah.

You might imagine that, as an agnostic Jew, my taste in carols would tend toward the type that focus on the sentiment of the season rather than the religiosity. After all, Jewish composers and/or lyricists have given us some of our most beloved secular carols: White Christmas (Irving Berlin); Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Ralph Blane); Winter Wonderland (Felix Bernard), Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow (Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne) — the list goes on.

But nope: Sir Paul’s masterpiece aside, I lean toward ones that use words like “hither” and “yonder,” that talk about errant sin and wicked Herod, that serve up a world sunk in such darkness that more than goodwill and mistletoe will be required to fix it.

Apparently, I’m not alone: one of the most devastating versions of O Holy Night you’ll ever hear comes from Jewish singer-songwriter Ben Caplan, who gives the carol, which reflects on the birth of Jesus as humanity's redemption, a minor-key twist, a klezmer flair and a sense of hope for peace and an end to oppression that goes beyond religion.

I can get behind that too.

Got a guilty-pleasure carol worse than mine? (I won’t apologize for Wonderful Christmastime, but my unfettered enjoyment of Mary’s Boy Child by Boney M. give even me pause.) One that moves you to tears? Share your fave songs of the season with me at jill.wilson@winnipegfreepress.com.

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

What’s up this week

If you love carols — classic or contemporary — your cup will runneth over this week.

But first, it’s not too late to sign up for what might be on its way to becoming an annual tradition: the Free Press Movie Night’s interactive screening of a locally shot Hallmark holiday movie. The Dec. 9 selection is Crashing Through the Snow, and it features all the hallmarks (no pun intended) of the genre. Register for a free ticket here. The film starts streaming at 7 p.m. tonight and will feature a live chat from members of the Winnipeg cast and crew, including Summer H. Howell, Jan Skene. John B. Lowe and Chase Winnicky.

(Hallmark) The Free Press Movie Night’s interactive screening of a locally shot Hallmark holiday movie, "Crashing Through the Snow", is Dec. 9.

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra gets in the spirit this weekend (Dec. 10-12) with its Holiday Pops program at the Centennial Concert Hall, conducted by Julian Pellicano and featurings guests including percussionist Ray Co-Co Stevenson, the Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, singer-songwriter Raine Hamilton and more. The works presented include everything from Everything, by Hamilton, to Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, to We Three Kings by John Henry Hopkins Jr. to Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson (fun fact: Sleigh Ride’s lyricist Mitchell Parish was, you guessed it, Jewish.)

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It’s not a carol, strictly speaking, but Handel’s Messiah with its famous Hallelujah chorus has long been considered a holiday tradition. The WSO presents the work Wednesday, Dec. 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the concert hall in a performance featuring the CMU Festival Chorus under the baton of Janet Brenneman, along with Jessica Kos-Whicher (soprano), Kirsten Schellenberg (alto), Matthew Dalen (tenor) and Neil Craighead (bass). Tickets are $39 to $119.

Another tradition, if not quite as long-standing, is the JP Hoe Hoe Hoe Holiday show. The Winnipeg singer-songwriter is taking his popular seasonal revue to the Burton Cummings Theatre on Saturday, Dec. 11; the show is sold out, but there’s an afterparty ($5 plus fees) at the Park Theatre, starting at 11 p.m. Tickets here.

Family-friendly local legend Fred Penner brings a seasonal show to the Burt the next afternoon at 3 p.m. The Juno-winning songwriter is set to delight generations of Fred Heads; tickets for the Sunday show are $40-$46 at Ticketmaster.

’A Charlie Brown Christmas." (United Feature Syndicate/UFS/TNS)

The Vince Guaraldi Trio’s soundtrack for the 1965 animated special A Charlie Brown Christmas has become a somewhat unorthodox seasonal favourite. The Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra presents Music from a Charlie Brown Christmas at the West End Cultural Centre on Wednesday, Dec. 15, at 7:30 p.m. The show, a reprise of one the WJO did in its 2019-20 season, features narration by Quinn Greene and vocals by Jayme Giesbrecht. Tickets are $45.50 at Eventbrite.ca.

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