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Christmas music everywhere? Here's a guide to picking for the occasion

That final pre-holiday house cleaning? Time for some of Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas music.

I’m one of those Christmas celebrants who waits until the Monday after Thanksgiving to haul out the holiday tunes. I think it's a bit premature to be singing Joy to the World while chewing on a turkey sandwich and quaffing the last of the Beaujolais Nouveau.

Now as we approach the height of Christmas music, I’ve listened to most everything in our collection. Our holiday CDs now number 42, ranging from Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas to The Bells of Dublin by The Chieftains. Of course I have my favorites, all dependent on the occasion. Here are my top picks for the season. Play on!

Decorating the Tree: White Christmas, by Bing Crosby. In addition to the title track, the CD features other classic Christmas carols such as Adeste Fideles and O Little Town of Bethlehem. For total saturation, watch the movie while trimming your tannenbaum.

Baking Cookies: Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite: It’s the next best thing to seeing Pacific Northwest Ballet’s wonderful production. Plus, you can work on your pas de deux if you can talk your partner into baking along with you.

Drinking Eggnog: Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s The Wonder of Christmas: Sixteen songs, featuring soloists Renee Fleming, Angela Lansbury, Audra McDonald, Frederica von Stade, and Bryan Terfel. Hold the booze.

Cleaning the House: Mannheim Steamroller’s A Fresh Aire Christmas. This is the first Christmas CD I bought, and will turn you into a musical cleaning machine. Crank it up!

Addressing Christmas Cards: Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song and Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album. Nat’s classic The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) comes in two versions, one a duet with his daughter Natalie Cole. And Tony’s I’ll Be Home For Christmas will have you reaching for the Kleenex. Coming in a close third is Michael Buble’s Let It Snow.

Viewing Christmas Lights: George Winston’s December (20th Anniversary Edition). Magical!

Mixing Martinis: Christmas Cocktails, Christmas Remixed, Christmas with Dino, Diana Krall Christmas Songs, Pink Martini’s Joy to the World. Shaken, not stirred.

Sing-Along: Handel’s Messiah. I’ve sung this oratorio with various choral groups, and have my alto part mostly memorized. My favorite sing-along spot is while driving on I-5. Just don’t stand up during the Hallelujah chorus.

Entertaining Non-Christmas Friends: The original motion picture soundtrack from Love Actually. Among the featured singers are Norah Jones, Eva Cassidy, The Pointer Sisters, and The Beach Boys. I watch the movie every Christmas, and Emma Thompson’s scene with Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now always reduces me to tears.

Xmas Eve Dinner: Perry Como Sings Merry Christmas Music is nice during appetizers. But switch to music without lyrics while dining, such as John Fahey’s Christmas Guitar and A Dave Brubeck Christmas.

Opening Gifts: Andrea Bocelli’s My Christmas, Philadelphia Brass Ensemble’s A Festival of Carols in Brass, The Greatest Classic Christmas Album and Anonymous 4’s A Star in the East: Medieval Hungarian Christmas Music.

For Your Favorite Skandahoovian: Stan Boreson Fractures Christmas, with such hits as Lena Got Run Over By A Reindeer and Walking In My Winter Underwear. Uff da!

Sue Frause is a Whidbey Island freelance writer and photographer. You can reach her at sue@suefrause.com.


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