Born with an instinctive love of music and trained as a musician, I have composed, played, sung, and conducted music all my life. Along the way, I collected a library of recorded music on 78 rpm records, LPs, tapes, and CDs. Most cherished are my CDs of Christmas music, now more than 50 discs.
I start listening to them on 1 December and continue until New Years. They play on my stereo system in my office and on the one in my dining room. They range from medieval music to post-modern. Choruses dominate, but I also have solo albums from all my favorite singers. I alternate listening to classical music such as Händel’s Messiah with Jamaican reggae and southern jazz groups. I have Christmas music from all over the world. It’s so variable that sometimes I wonder at the different ways cultures celebrate.
Among my favorites are Leontyne Price singing a Negro spiritual with no accompaniment and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf singing “Silent Night” as originally composed. I love the ancient recordings I copied from LP to CD, including the Robert Shaw Chorale and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I even have a recording of a Christmas mass I wrote for chorus, folk group, organ, and flute back in the days when I still had time to compose, before writing took over all my time.
Listening to all those CDs takes me back to various times in my life—my childhood when I was a boy soprano in choirs, my time in Vietnam when I formed and led musical groups, the days after the fall of Saigon when I turned to music to help me cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) and cherished Christmas as a time of peace and comfort.
Music, especially at this time of year, remains a source of fulfillment for me. I age, lose friends, function less well than I did when I was younger. But music and Christmas remain undiminished.