Nano Notes Christmas Carols

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Back in the days of three- and four-hundred disc caroussel CD players, our collection of Christmas albums lived in one, all the time. Come Beethoven’s birthday (that’s today), all I had to do was select a group of CDs to play (there were two, as I recall, on that machine; the other was a Standard Song Book collection) and hit “play.” The caroussel was programmed to shuffle among the discs, which meant for silences of fifteen or twenty seconds between carols. The moral of the story is that it didn’t take me very long to transfer this idea to a Nano.

Aside from much shorter spots of dead air, the Nano offered the signal enhancement of allowing me to tranche the carols. The ones that we really love — Sir David Willcocks’s collection (“Once in Royal David’s City” is given an amazing performance), Andrew Parrott’s two albums (an unforgettable “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen,” sung to a different tune and in a very strong North-of-England accent.), and the old Waverly Consort Christmas offering (my favorite version of “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen.”) — go in the first tranche. The second group includes novelty albums — Rita Ford’s music boxes, carols re-charted in the styles of Old Master Composers. The third group, which may not be chosen at all during the season, includes the divas (Christmas with You-Name-Her, from Battle to Te Kanawa, but not including Schwarzkopf, who appears in the second group) and a colossal multi-disc set of dulcimer recordings that sounded swell at the Japanese pub across the street one snowy night, when I was deep into a martini.

There is another playlist — or was; I can’t find it anywhere. It consists of several recordings of Messiah, connected by things like Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. (Where can it have gone? How did it disappear from the computer? Was I so dumb as to compose it on the Nano itself?) I forget how many Messiahs we have, but it’s more than five, and we play ‘em all. (What a bore, though, to have to reconstitute the list! It was terrific, but I don’t recall everything that was on it. The moral of the story is: backup, people!)