My Favorite Holiday Music

Today I’m really at a loss what to write about for my December 2017 daily post.  One thing about the holidays is they are more fun when we share things.  So, tonight I want to share one of my favorite pieces of holiday music.  It’s the album Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanukkah* by The Klezmatics.

The Klezmatics took Hanukkah themed lyrics written by Woody Guthrie and created an album of original music out of them.  It’s about as fun as a holiday album can get.  Klezmer is party music and this album lives up to the tradition.  Nine of the twelve tunes are upbeat.  They are filled with toe tapping rhythms and hummable melodies.  I’m not a dancer (at all), but this album makes me want to dance.

Woody Guthrie had a gift for writing children’s music.  That gift shines through here.  The album captures the wonder and joy of childhood around the holidays.  It’s innocent and pure in all the best ways.

I find two of the slow songs to be the most emotional songs on the album.  One is called “The Many and the Few”.  It tells the full Hanukkah story from King Cyrus allowing the Jews back into Palestine to the oil burning for eight days.  Each verse is told from the point of view of a different character in the story.  The arrangement is incredibly sparse.  It’s just a harmonium (I think) and two vocalists.  They don’t even sing in harmony until the last verse.  Instead they trade verses throughout the song.  It’s hard to describe, but it’s a very moving song.

The other is “Hanuka Dance”.  This song is the only one on the album that I’ve heard recorded by Woody Guthrie, but it’s completely different here.  Lyrically, you would expect just a fun little dance number.  Here is a typical verse, “Tippy tap toe!  Happy Hanukah!/’Round you go!  My little latke!/On your toes!  Happy Hanuka!/And around and around you go!”  But the best word I’ve got to describe this version of the song is poignant.  It’s not exactly sad, but it’s the kind of song I get choked up over.  It’s pretty extraordinary.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I highly recommend this album.  Unlike the last one I wrote about, this is easy to track down.  It’s on Amazon and YouTube for starters.  So, give it a listen.  You won’t be sorry.

* The word Hanukkah is spelled at least three different ways in this album.  It is Hanukkah for the album title and Hanukah and Hanuka in the song titles and lyrics.  I always wonder if that was on purpose or if Woody Guthrie was inconsistent with his spelling.  I just wanted to point out that for this post, I wasn’t messing with the spelling, I was following what was printed on the album.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.