Saturday, December 15, 2018

Merry Christmas To: You--High Spirits, Past and Present, Youth of Holy Spirit Parish

The High Spirits were a group of children from the Holy Spirit School in Whitehall, Ohio, an enclave of Columbus.  The kids on this 1973 LP are third- to eighth-graders, and they were directed by Sister Carol Ann Krell.  Total pop-folk, good singing, fun percussion, a mostly good pressing (with a few rough spots), cool stereo sound--you can't miss with this one.  Maybe the best LP of its type I've ever come across, and it's a local effort, to boot--about an hour's drive away.  The children aren't trying to be cute, and the adults in charge haven't given them any corny material, so this is a welcome change from some of the stuff I've been putting up this season.

Generic cover, but nice.  For once, I've included label and liner note scans along with the music.  The typewritten liner notes were inserted into the jacket (the back is blank).  I don't think they're mimeographs; probably photocopies, and of course not up to modern standards.

No Santa Got Drunk and Fell Off the Roof or Happy 25th, Jesus type of stuff.  Just carols and a few pop Christmas standards.  Totally delightful, and I keep hoping to find one or all of their other LPs  As of 1973, they'd made four of them, plus a 45.

Note: The file I initially uploaded was minus the images.  I re-upped, and still no images.  But all is fine now--music and images are present.  Sorry about that.  I'm studying the contents of my "Christmas Vinyl" folder in my Music library right now, trying to figure out what went wrong.  No idea.  It was poltergeists.  I just know it.

Click here to hear:  High Spirits, Past and Present

Winter Wonderland
Sing We Noel
Go Tell It on a Mountain
Children Go
What Child Is This?
A Christmas Round
Away In a Manger
Do You Hear What I Hear?
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Silver Bells
White Christmas
Angels We Have Heard on High
'Neath the Silent Stars
I Heard the Bells
Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy
Drummer Boy

High Spirits, Past and Present--Christmas, 1973 (Mus-i-Col 101651/52, Columbus OH)



David Federman said...

I just found what is billed as a reissue of Melachrino's "Christmas in High Fidelity" from 1954 and compared it with the 1959 remake, "Christmas Joy." Melachrino spiced up his earlier arrangements to make the second version as much a demonstration of stereo high fidelity as the former was a demonstration of monophonic high fidelity. Both albums reach sonic pinnacles that were common for RCA in the 1950s and both are worth hearing and, of course, owning. I believe it is the earlier album that Collector's Choice reissued in its Melachrino twofer CD years ago. Like a fool, I passed on it. Why doesn't someone combine the two albums for a reissue? Melachrino is the avatar of what we foolishly used to call "mood music." For those who want to recognize a tune and hear it exalted, he's my go-to guy. Just listen to his albums devoted to Victor Herbert and Sigmund Romberg (once paired on England's Vocalion label). I used to be embarrassed by my secret love of Melachrino and the like until I read that Charlie Parker was a big fan of Freddy Martin and said his saxophone playing was superb. That drove me back to find the dozens of early 1930s records by Freddy Martin. You haven't lived until you hear "Moon Around Town" from 1934. It is a true masterpiece. Sorry for going on. It's so much fun to share Christmas with folks like you and Buster.

David Federman said...

More on the Melachrino update. The arrangements are often completely new on "Christmas Joy." Both albums had 16 tracks, but different songs. "Christmas Alphabet" is on the remake while "Skater's Waltz" is absent. Does anybody want me to post both albums at WeTransfer in their original order so that honest, often startling comparisons can be made? For example, "White Christmas" in 1954 starts with a carillon while the 1959 version begins with an organ prelude. Both are magnificent. But it is obvious that the two albums are meant to be thought of as entirely different entities. Scratch any idea of remake. Alas, I do not have the highest-resolution files to work from. They're @192kps. But I would be more than glad to share them until greater sonic generosity is shown.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Thanks for the offer, but I'm still confused about my Vocalion LP. Where does it fit in? Is it, in fact, the earlier RCA LP? I always assumed that M.'s RCA material was British HMV. So I'm lost.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Oh, and while stationed in Scotland I came across M.'s HMV 78 of "Way To the Stars." It helped get me into "mood." I've often wondered about the etymology of "mood music." It would be easy, and probably a cop-out, to trace it back to the days of silent films, when snatches of Tchaikovsky and original music by Domenico Savino were played on the organ to underscore things. What we know as mood is very closely related to "Pops" fare, which in turn has its roots in the traveling bands and orchestras of the 19th century, and the light fare they presented--popular songs, arrangements of Beethoven, and, eventually, Sousa marches. When it all become about mood, I don't know. The concept of workplace music goes back to c. 1900--Muzak is that old. And there's the common know-nothing notion that mood started in the "Bachelor Pad" era, which is obviously nonsense.

Music journalists started trashing mood music around 1955. They had no idea where it came from or why it existed, and they arrived at the elitist conclusion that the stuff was dreck for people unable to dig Mozart. That it was a substitute for real music. People should've been buying Prokofiev, not Andre kostelanetz playing Broadway stuff. That was the idea. I don't think the critics made any effort to dig into the genre's history.

George Birch said...

To continue in the off-topic vein, Wikipedia has a very interesting and comprehensive history of Muzak (the name itself is a rip-off of the trademark Kodak.)

David Federman said...

Look how long Gershwin's serious music had to wait until it found the concert-hall respectability in America that it almost instantly found in Europe. I admit it took me a long time to de-stigmatize so-called "mood music." But as I've grown older, I've come to love all the exemplars of the genre. I can thank you and Buster, in large part, for that. So let me thank you both. And every time I listen to Paul Whiteman's 1934 recordings of Romberg's "When I Grow to Old to Dream" and "The Night is Young," I think, "Lee would love this." As for your Vocalion truncation of the Melachrino album, just chalk it off to a bad day at the thrift store.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Yes, the "-aK" suffix iss very turn of the century. I'll look at that, thanks. Though I take Wikipedia with a grain of salt when the topic is culture. Pop culture, especially. They tend to go with false mainstream narratives. On the other hand, they're incredibly comprehensive. They're the epitome of a mixed bag as a source for information.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

David--my impression is that Gershwin had almost instant success in that regard. He was already a superstar by the time of his early death, and he was giving his own concerts in person and on the radio. I think this was partly because "Pops" concerts were already an established tradition, which he perfectly fit into. Plus, the serious music folks were interested in jazz but found it too vulgar. Then along comes Gershwin, who's doing a kind of/sort of jazz in symphonic form. He was just what they wanted.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Also, he lucked out--as Grofe did with "Grand Canyon"--by appearing on the scene when American concert music was taking off, when it wasn't necessarily required to play second fiddle to the European variety. Critics were looking for something they could label as an authentic American product, and this meant anything employing jazz, Negro folks melodies, etc. Deems Taylor is a fascinating character in this story, being a combination longhair and pop guy. He had one foot in both camps. Plus, he had a fabulous announcing voice. Never found his music remotely interesting, though. Copland, Carpenter, and other modern American composers leave me cold. Gershwin, of course, is one of the huge exceptions. He had no sense of construction, but his brilliant sense of melody and harmony made that irrelevant. And what's up with Copland? He was like THE American composer, and now it's as if labels and critics have forgotten him. Fine with me--I find his stuff shallow and forced--but what's up?

Ernie said...

Thanks for this Lee, love the local stuff. You mention scans, though, and there are none in the download. :( Care to post those for us to read? Thanks!

Lee Hartsfeld said...

There arent't? You're right--I just test-downloaded it. Dang it. How did I mess that up?

If there's a way, I'll find it. Sorry 'bout that. Will repost. I recall making a zip without the scans, then a rip WITH them. I thought I'd uploaded the latter. Evidently, no.

Ernie said...

No biggie. :) I like having the artwork with the files when I can, I've been trying to remember to go back and download all your artwork with the music.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Okay, I re-upped it with the images, and all that Zippy took were the music files. I did something wrong in making the zip, but what? Let me figure it out. Likely, it's something elementary.

Ernie said...

Got it! "I'm quite sure Mitch Miller wouldn't mind." Cute!

Lee Hartsfeld said...

I thought so, too. Funny--I put this up before and didn't notice the tucked-away typed notes. Maybe Mus-i-Col forgot to put them on the back jacket, which is blank. A Google check shows that Mus-i-col is still in operation!

Buster said...

Fascinating discussion tucked away here. Lee's thoughts on the origins of light music are perceptive.

I don't know that Copland has been forgotten so much that he is unfashionable. Also his most popular pieces have been recorded many times. Of course, so have Gershwin's works, and that doesn't dissuade people from performing and recording them.

B._B. said...

Hi Lee,

. . . AKA "HIGHLY thought of..."!? . . .

Is this the ONLY "Kids Khoir Kristmas" El Pee you've ever posted???

IF it is, then it's sure to be the one I've been seeking (to replace... an old "MY(P)HWAE" download from many years ago that I lost in a HD failure...)

Will listen see if it "rings any bells"...

Thanks just the same IF it's NOT the older "private press" LP of this same ilk you posted all those years ago. It was one of the BEST things you have ever shared....! Even if I remember VERY little about it except that it was DISARMINGLY CHARMING. (Sorry, sentimental olde fool time of year 'n' all...)

- B. (In Sunny So. Cal.)

David Federman said...


My last 2 cents (or, perhaps, plugged nickel) on Gershwin. The composer hated the "pops" concert programming context for his music. Indeed, he wanted to be ranked and regarded as a composer of serious music and went to Europe to meet with and ask for lessons from Ravel and Stravinsky (and, I believe Berg). All refused, saying he was far beyond the need for their help. Indeed, either Stravinsky or Ravel is supposed to have responded, when told his annual income, "You teach me."

Copland and Harris got the acclaim as serious composers that Gershwin sought for himself. And if you listen to "Porgy and Bess," you will hear more than a few touches of modernism. Indeed, composer Elliott Carter claims to have seen Gershwin seated in the front row at the 1931 American premiere of "Wozzeck," conducted by Stokowski in Philadelphia, and believes he was an anonymous underwriter of the concert.

For you (and also me), "pops" is not a derogatory term. But there is evidence to believe Gershwin did not share your views. I admit grew up feeling a sense that Gershwin was excluded from American concert halls--unless it was in a "pops concert" context. There seemed to be a distinct Mason-Dixon line between Copland-type and Gershwin-type music. Today, of course, every major classical pianist performs Gershwin with the same reverence as they do Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. I have an incredible 1976 recording of Sviatoslav Richter performing the Concerto in F with Christoph Eschenbach (himself a great pianist) conducting. And in spite of Leonard Bernstein's misgivings about its "form" and "structure," "Rhapsody in Blue" is finally a concert hall staple. Indeed, there have been reconstructions of the score in its form as handed to Whiteman to perform.

David Federman said...


I don't have to tell anyone who loves tasteful orchestral music that George Melachrino was a master of the genre. He was to RCA in this domain what Jackie Gleason was to it for Capitol. In 1954, Melachrino recorded a memorable holiday music classic, "Christmas in High Fidelity," with 16 selections. The album was issued on both LP and 45 EP, each with different track orderings.

In 1959, Melachrino was asked for a stereo remake of 'Adventures'. But he chose to make a 16-slection album of second thoughts about many of the songs on the first record (just compare "White Christmas" on each)--and even omitted songs (with substitutes) found on the original. But even when he stuck to original arrangements, he augmented them for optimal stereo staging (compare "Winter Wonderland").

Early in this century, Customer's Choice Music issued the original mono LP version, coupled with Melachrino's "Under Westeren Skies," as a twofer. In 2015, Real Gone Music issued the stereo remake. It is my considered opinion that both versions of the album are essential to lovers of Holiday Music. This is not Muzak. George was a master of orchestration, equal in skill to Andre Kostelanetz. In any case, here are George's two very merry, cherry faces of Christmas Eve. Enjoy. For those who want high-res, accept my apologies. These uploads are at WeTransfer for a week. Download them while ye may. I doubt you'll find any more imaginative instrumental versions of these songs.

George Melachrino - Christmas in High Fidelity (1954)

George Melachrino - Christmas Joy (1959)

Kwork said...

Thank you much!