Saturday, December 22, 2018

Season's Greetings from Jan Cyman and the Musicalaires--Holiday polkas that rock!

I genuinely love polkas.  Polkas go back as far as some country fiddle tunes--namely, to the time of Jefferson and Washington.  That may sound unlikely, but we know for sure that polkas were around in the early 1800s, and I read a scholarly piece on line (a piece I now can't find, of course) which talked about polka melodies notated in the late 18th century.  It's wonderful music, and more complex than people think, and certainly not easy to play correctly.  I have, and have heard, some other Christmas polkas of the non-traditional type (there are, as far as I know, traditional Christmas polkas), but these rock the needle out of the groove.  This is the real stuff.  Starting about eighth grade, I was best buddies with a Polish American, and I became close to his family--and their polka LPs.  I knew I was supposed to laugh at this stuff, but I preferred enjoying it.

My first copy of this was trashed, and after I'd ripped it and starting doing the file repair, I realized it was hopeless.  An inexpensive copy was sitting at eBay, waiting for me, so I got it.  And here it is.

I'm not someone who likes his music loud, but crank up a polka with my blessings--this stuff deserves a right turn on the volume dial.  (Old-fashioned reference to technology no longer in manufacture.)  Regarding the Captain Santa Polka, it is, of course, Captain Santa Claus (And His Reindeer Space Patrol), the song on the flip side of Bobby Helm's Jingle Bell Rock.  Don't know how the LeMANS label got away with not crediting the authors.  I won't snitch if you don't.

TO THE POLKAS: Season's Greetings from Jan Cyman and the Musicalaires

Christmas Season Polka (Cyman)
Captain Santa Polka
Dance Around the Christmas Tree Polka (Yankovic)
Christmas Feelings Waltz (Cyman)
Jolly Old St. Nick Polka
Christmas Time Is Here Again Polka (Cyman-Yankovic)
Why Can't Everyday Be Christmas Polka (Cyman)
What Christmas Means to me Polka
Footsteps on the Roof Polka (Cyman)
I Want an Old Fahioned Christmas Polka (Cyman)

Season's Greetings from Jan Cyman and the Musicalaires (LeMANS LPC-53; 1978)



Ernie said...

Cool! I think on more than one occasion I've lamented a shortage of covers of the Bobby Helms track! :)

DonHo57 said...

Hey, I was besieged with polkas at an early age when my folks were taking dancing lessons in the late 50s and early 60s. And I keep a couple of old school receivers and power amps around for occasions such as this. I have a monstrous Sansui that's from the mid 60s and cranks out 120 watts per, and two pairs of huge high power Sansui speakers to match. My neighbors all love me. Thanks for another treat, Lee. Cheers.

Buster said...

Thanks, Lee - I like polkas, too. I note that this includes a number of Yankovic numbers, so I assume this troupe is of Slovenian extraction, rather than Polish. I am not familiar with them, but then I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert!

Lee Hartsfeld said...


My Sansui receiver was only 50 watts, but it drove my 100-watt Sansui speakers nicely. Tossed out the speakers long ago--probably shouldn't have. But this small house has only so much room, and that's not much.


I mentioned Polish Americans because that was my polka entry point. (That's a weird phrase! Polka entry point.) As you know, polkas of every ethnic type are out there--German, Italian, Mexican (at least a lot of their stuff sounds like polka music), Czech. The coolest folk Polkas I've heard are a Russian/Polish hybrid and feature a relentless two-beat pulse (not the oom-pah of regular polka music) and a mode with an augmented fourth. I first heard this style on a 78 at my friend's house. Many years later, I heard the same tune (but not same side) on a Yazoo CD.

Some Polish polkas recorded in the 1920s are extremely intricate, suggesting the existence of "art music" polkas. Many are voice and accompaniment. They have a Classical sound. Other Polish sides from the era are village orchestras playing in much simpler style. I was amazed to discover late-20s/early-30s sides that sound like modern ears expect polkas to sound.

Buster said...

I have an LP of polkas by Frantisek Hilmar, a 19th century Czech composer who apparently used folk sources for his published works. His music was in turn used by or influenced Smetana and Dvorak. Apparently the polka became popular in Prague in the 1830s. I'll post the LP one of these days.

Kwork said...

I don't mind a polka or two every ten years or so, and that time is here again. I'll listen. Thank you.