Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, please put a penny in the old man’s hat, if you haven’t got a penny a halfpenny will do, if you not got a halfpenny then, God Bless you. Nice sentiments from Christmas’s long past, nowadays its more like Christmas is coming, the ads are on the TV in June, the Kids want everything, and the adults too, lets find an obscure toy and say it’s the most wanted and then not send it to the stores so parents feel inadequate when they can’t get it. Changed a bit has’nt it. I think we know that the festive spirit is in short supply because rather than watch THE MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET or IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, people would rather watch the latest Marvel superheroes or a festive edition of LOVE ISLAND. Is it me or am I just getting old, when I see this drivvle on TV and think what the !!!!!!! It’s the same with Christmas music as well, it’s the same old stuff churned out every year, LAST CHRISTMAS, I WISH IT COULD BE CHRISTMAS EVERYDAY (no please anything but that), BAND AID, SHAKIN STEVENS, MARIA CAREY ( she has done well for herself with her Walkers advert hasn’t she—sorry Meoooow).But I suppose that is also a sign of the times because no one wants to or is able to write a decent Christmas song, and cant blame them because we are just to obsessed with what X factor failure will get a number one for the yuletide and line Simon Cowells already bulging pockets so he can buy more shirts that don’t do up, to even think about a Christmas song at Christmas. It’s the way of the world I suppose, with shops open on Christmas day as well and the big stores basically forcing their staff to cut short the already trimmed down Christmas holidays to open on boxing day. Would it not be nice to go back to say the 1970’s and have a proper Christmas, everything closes on Christmas eve, and stays closed until at least the 27th of Dec, if you not got something guess what go without, you want a newspaper on Christmas day well nope not happening etc. Bah and satsuma (sorry never did like humbugs). Why am I going on and on, you ask (You did ask right?). Well I purchased an LP many years ago that was a Christmas record a compilation of brilliant Christmas songs and I loved it and for me it made Christmas and also did come out at other times during the year. What is he going on about I hear you shouting, this is a film music site isn’t it? Yes, it is but this album is film music related, because it was recorded by one of England’s finest film music composers who also contributed to the easy listening or light music market in the form of numerous compilation LP’s.
Ron Goodwin recorded so many albums on various labels and kept the nation entertained via his arrangements of popular songs and film music by other composers as well as inspiring and entertaining us with his own robust and vibrant film scores. The album I am talking about was called CHRISTMAS WONDERLAND, which was released on the EMI STUDIO 2 STEREO label back in 1967, the album contains 14 tracks all of which are classics, even the track that Ron wrote himself entitled THE CHRISTMAS TREE, this is just a wonderfully happy and easy going collection of songs and carols, that I for one thought would one day be released onto CD but sadly no that has not happened as yet, and as its such a vintage album I do not thin it will ever get a compact disc or even an official digital release, I did approach a number of labels, but none were interested, it’s a limited market, yes I agree but it’s a big market if you advertise it correctly and maybe just maybe in these days of hectic lives and stressful days an album such as this would actually be popular, its an album that one just puts on and lets it play through and through whilst either putting up the decorations or even on Christmas day when the family are around opening presents etc. The arrangements are joyously simple and even at times cliched but are still just great. Ron takes us through the Christmas concert that we would all love to go to, the album opening with WHITE CHRISTMAS, which the composer gives a rich and leisurely sound, via strings and the brass section that are punctuated by unassuming percussion. Track two is a cheeky and childlike sounding arrangement of RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER, which I have to admit is probably my favourite and its also the track from the album that has popped up on various Christmas collection over the years. Track three is a stunning rendition of SILENT NIGHT, a tearjerker at the best of times, Goodwin, s sensitive re-working of this traditional classic is mesmerising. With strings that begin slowly an in an adagio style to swell and purvey a true sense of the meaning of CHRISTMAS that is emotive and poignant as well as heart-warming. Track four is a jolly version of SLEIGH RIDE complete with the sound of sleigh bells and hooves a galloping and tripping along, this is a rather impish sounding performance, but I think because the album was recorded in the Summer the orchestra just really got into the festive mood, with Goodwin even wishing them all Merry Christmas before starting the recording. Track five, is a beautiful and haunting arrangement of LITTLE DONKEY originally the song had been a hit for Nina and Frederick, and the sheet music for the piece had also reached number 1 in 1959 for the composer Eric Boswell.
The final two cues on side one of the LP are HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS and a rather engaging performance of THE CAROL OF THE DRUM. Side two opens with a jaunty and up-tempo version of JINGLE BELLS which has to it a style that is unmistakably Goodwin, as employed in THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES and later in MONTE CARLO OR BUST. Midway bursting into a jazz band style and then here we go with those magnificent men again or at least a style similar, this is outstanding in the entertainment department, jazz, big band and a film music style are all rolled into one fantastic arrangement. Time to go down beat for the next cue, with Goodwin utilising woods and harp initially for his gorgeous arrangement of MARY’S BOY CHILD. To the harp and woodwinds, he adds solo violin, although brief this is certainly affecting. The album is a perfect accompaniment to roast chestnuts, drink wine and just relax for the Christmas period, with Goodwin treating us to touching and also toe tapping arrangements of evergreens such WINTER WONDERLAND, BRAHMS LULLABY and THE CHRISTMAS SONG. Then we have Goodwin’s very European sounding cue THE CHRISTMAS TREE which I always liked for its simplicity and its charm, the composer incorporating a soprano into the proceedings performing SILENT NIGHT whilst his composition continues to play as a background. The album reaches its crescendo with a medley of traditional carols, which is the frosting on the fruit cake or the chocolate butter icing on the yule log (see what I did there). This opens with what I can only say is an inspired and glorious version of O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL, which neatly segues into AWAY IN A MANGER, and then continues with, GOOD KING WENCELAS, GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMEN, THE HOLLY AND THE IVY and ending in a tumultuous but gracious performance of THE FIRST NOEL. This is a wonderful album and should be released ASAP onto CD before it is lost forever. His writing a list, and checking it twice, ah yes CHRISTMAS WONDERLAND by Ron Goodwin for John in the U.K. on CD. Thanks Santa…. But until then I will have to be contented with the LP and also anything that just might pop up on You Tube. Merry Christmas, ( what its only November, Tell that to John Lewis).