This is one of my favourite songs for the Christmas season. The title says it all, although the original lyrics were a bit more ambiguous.
Have Yourself Merry Little Christmas was written for the 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis, starring Judy Garland. Garland balked at singing the original lyrics because she felt they were too sad for the scene the song appears in. Hugh Martin, the lyricist, reluctantly rewrote some of the lines to make it more hopeful sounding. In subsequent years a couple of more tweeks were made as the song evolved into the version we’re familiar with today.
Here’s an interesting article that traces the evolution of the lyrics. Its interesting to see in recent years a number of artists rediscovering and recording the original lyrics. Perhaps this a sign of today’s pervading cynicism.
Regardless of the version of the lyrics you prefer, the melody always wraps me in a warm, cozy blanket of nostalgia when I hear it. So I chose to arrange it beginning with a slow, meditative tone. The change up to a jazz waltz feel at the bridge felt like a nice contrast and leads into a upbeat final verse before finally returning to a reflective mood for the ending.
If you find my arrangement a bit too laid back and need more of a kick in your eggnog, you might want to check out Twisted Sister’s version.
For the guitarists, a half hour video lesson and transcription of this arrangement is available.
I am teaming up with classical guitarist Brad Mahon to present an evening of music and stories for and about the guitar. We’re calling it Nylon and Steel – Exploring the Acoustic Guitar and will be doing two shows in Regina on June 13 and 14.
Performing on two similar, yet distinct, forms of the guitar (nylon string and steel string guitars), Brad and I will blend our contrasting musical backgrounds to explore the diverse range of music associated with this instrument.
Brad Mahon is a formally trained classical guitarist and the current Head of the Conservatory of Performing Arts at the University of Regina. He has been described as “an outstanding classical guitarist” (20th Century Guitar magazine, New York). I can vouch for that and add, “and a heck of a nice guy, to boot” (Bob Evans, Regina). Brad will be drawing material for the evening from a varied classical guitar repertoire.
I am … well, you know who I am … and as you may suspect, I’ll be coming at the evening from a somewhat more informal school of folk, country and blues music.
Bach to Beatles, Klassical to Kentucky, Around the World and a whole lot more. Musical chocolate and peanut butter. Come on out and have a taste.
This will all take place at two shows in Regina at Sawchyn Guitars on June 13 and 14. If you’ve been there before, you will know Sawchyn Guitars provides an intimate venue perfect for this sort of concert. If you didn’t know that, this is the perfect chance to come and find out for yourself!
But intimate also means seating is limited, so get your tickets early to avoid being afflicted with the dreaded Disappointment.
June 13 and 14
Sawchyn Guitars (2132 Dewdney Ave., Regina)
7:30 pm (doors open at 7)
Tickets: $20 – available at Sawchyn Guitars (306-522-6348)
Good King Wenceslas always struck me as a bit odd when I was a kid. I liked the tune. But the lyrics seemed a bit different from other Christmas carols in that they didn’t seem to specifically reference Christmas itself.
“Away in a manger … “ , “Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the new born king”, “O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth. “. Those sort of carols are pretty obvious.
But “Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen …”? We didn’t even know what the Feast of Stephen was. For me, it always brought up an image of him watching people eating.
Interestingly, Good King Wenceslas was originally published in a collection of carols for Easter, not Christmas. It is only over time that it has become so closely associated with Christmas instead. Thank goodness the Feast of Stephen is on December 26, so there is at least a proximity connection.
Tempus adest floridum
But setting aside the original connection to Easter, for me there is a much greater issue I wrestle with when I have too much time on my hands.
The lyrics for Good King Wenceslas were written in the mid-19th-century. But the tune itself is taken from Tempus adept floridum, a 13th-century Finnish carol.
If I play an instrumental version of the song – ie. without the lyrics – am I really playing Good King Wenceslas? Or am I actually playing Tempus adept floridum?
This sort of existential angst always gives me a headache and provides an excellent excuse to reach for the eggnog and rum.
Happy holidays, everyone.
Blackbird is one of Paul McCartney’s many little masterpieces. Sparse and efficient, like Yesterday, it is one of those “just right” moments The Beatles managed to hit so many times.
Over the past fifty years Blackbird’s guitar accompaniment has become one of a relatively small handful of influential guitar pieces – like Classical Gas, Stairway to Heaven, Windy and Warm and their ilk – that “everyone” seems to either be able to identify or has actually taken a stab at while learning to play guitar.
Interestingly, the inspiration for Blackbird’s guitar part was found in yet another well-known guitar piece, J.S. Bach’s Bouree in E minor. More recently, Sir Paul has explained how he and George used to play a bastardized version of Bouree as a party piece to impress people with how musically worldly they were.
As you can hear, and as Sir Paul acknowledges, they got it wrong – real wrong. But part of The Beatles’ genius was being able to take little seeds like that and turn them into brilliant music of their own. McCartney did just that in this case, using some of the fingering from their twisted version of Bouree as the seed for what became the guitar part for Blackbird.
With my penchant for arranging Beatles tunes this is one song I couldn’t ignore. Usually when arranging The Beatles for solo guitar it is an issue of compressing the full sound of a band down onto six strings. Given Blackbird features just a single guitar and voice, one might assume that made it much easier to arrange for solo guitar. Paradoxically, not so. But that is a story for another time.