Tradition is an important and vital part of any holiday. Traditions of course are what bind humans together in the form of rituals and allow us to recognize the cyclical nature of the world. While we live in a linear existence, traditions allow those that we have cherished and loved to live on in our hearts and memories. Tradition is also why we love Christmas music, especially Christmas music from the great singers of the past.
Bing, Frank, Dean and of course Ella are the people we choose to listen to because they were the voices in the early days of radio and television that lulled and cooed the population through bad and good times, through depression and boom times, through war and in peace and in love and through loneliness. People are emotional and associate sensations with these feelings and connect them to the voices of the people they heard so they play the music for their children, and their children. While not all music from that era is recognized by younger generations, the Christmas music almost always is recognized by all even if they now the names of the artists are not.
Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas is a compilation of carols and songs that will bring the kids and folks together around a tree, underneath a holly bow or a piece of mistletoe; togetherness with a familiar voice that resonates through the moments of our lives. The Christmas carol in itself is a traditional and communal song sung near Christmas or in the winter season. This tradition of singing Christmas carols dates back to around the 13th century. Many of the oldest songs in the caroling tradition are based on medieval chord patterns and structures, which gives them a certain uniqueness of sound that immediately allows us to make a differentiation between these older styles of musical expression from the more modern chord structures. This antiquarian sound allows for us to know that these songs have roots far into the past and therefore has meant something to our ancestors and their ancestors in some form for centuries. This is important to our sense of tradition and family.
Pipe organs, drums, bells, harp and, of course, church choir-style choruses make us think of the Christian tradition. The songs on this recording are all centered by the Christian tradition. Carols however actually have a deeper past and the art was actually a pagan tradition first. A "koros" was a circle of singer and dancers that would accompany the dialogues within Greek drama. Ella is her normal magnificent self with range, command and confidence about her interpretation of the carols. She is complimented by the chorus, but her voice is the main attraction as the chorus compliments her singing as another instrument to back her up. Most of the choruses by the choir are sung in different time from Ella’s own chorus, which gives layers and complexity to the music. The recording retains the feel that the choir was in a church setting even though the recording was produced in Capitol Studios, Hollywood on July 17th and 18th of 1967. This compilation was rereleased in 2007 for Capitol Records and offers a retrospective of this recording session 40 years later. If you love Ella and appreciate the Christmas caroling tradition this is an excellent recording to listen to this holiday and future holiday seasons.