Saturday, 13 December 2014

52 Lists / Fifty

This week: List your favourite Christmas carols, music and songs

I cannot underestimate how much I love Christmas music. Over the years I have acquired so many Christmas CDs. We've always had an unwritten rule to not listen to any music before the start of December, so I look forward to getting them all out on the morning of the 1st December and trying to play them all at some point during Advent and the holiday period. 

It's really hard to put together a shortlist of my favourites as there are far too many but this year I put together a CD of some of my favourites for my friend Shannon @ Toolson Family. I chose tracks that I thought were very British and she might not have heard before (she's lives in Washington State in America and I'm pretty sure that dear old Shaky hasn't reached there yet!), so I've decided that these are the songs I will share with you today. 

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen – Traditional Carol
There's something about this carol that evokes the spirit of a traditional Victorian Christmas and all things Dickens.

Dancing Day – Traditional, performed by Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band
I love some folky music at Christmas, perfect for our pie and ale night between Christmas and New Year when we put aside fancy food and bubbly for traditional grub. I love Maddy Prior's voice, for some reason I think she must be just like Clarrie Grundy from The Archers!

Here We Come A Wassailing – Traditional, performed by Kate Rusby
Rocking Carol – Traditional, performed by Kate Rusby
Kate Rusby has a beautiful voice and has such an extensive knowledge about the history of the tradition of the carol and carolling in Yorkshire. I would love to see her perform at Christmas but have her live video of Christmas songs and this and her seasonal CDs is brilliant for listening to when getting the house ready.

Gaudete – Traditional, performed by Steeleye Span
More folky music but I love this one particularly as it's one of Andy's favourites.

Coventry Carol – Traditional
This is beautiful and so calming. There are so many different versions of it but I love Sixteen's recording as the voices are so clear and bright.

Fantasia On Christmas Carols – Traditional, arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Wassail Song – Traditional, arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Life at home with Mum and Dad would not be the same without the music of Vaughan Williams. He was one of our nation's most important people with regards to preserving old carols and his arrangements are beautiful. These are both uplifting and calming. 

Bethlehem Down –  Peter Warlock
This is a beautiful piece of music, so minimal in volume and yet so powerful. I have sung this in concerts a couple of times and every time I enjoy it.

A Spotless Rose – Herbert Howells
I've listened to this 20th century piece for many years but it is only in the last year or so that I have really listened to it carefully and have sought out more pieces by Herbert Howells. I love to run myself a bath with festive bubbles and listen to this whilst I soak by candlelight. Peace!

In the Bleak Midwinter – Music by Harold Edwin Darkes
The version by Harold Darkes reminds me of the desolate English countryside in winter. I can see a beautiful country church and a snowy landscape. Whilst the words by Christina Rosetti are so gentle and innocent. It's the perfect carol for this cold, dark time of year.

Shepherd’s Farewell – Hector Berlioz performed by The Pavao Quartet
This piece by Berlioz is always sung at church on the last Sunday of Christmas just before the decorations are taken down. For me it signals the end of the festive period and the joys of Epiphany and Candlemas to come. This version is performed by my lovely friend Jenny Sacha and her string quartet.

Nativity Carol - John Rutter, performed by Clare College, Cambridge
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without some John Rutter. He has written some beautiful modern carols that are not only great to listen to but fantastic to sing.

The Power Of Love – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Something from my childhood in the 80s, that is beautiful and yet so cold. It always reminds Andy and I of an American store manager we had at Daisy & Tom who wouldn't allow this to be played at Christmas as she didn't think it was a seasonal song. I just hope she cringed at her comments when John Lewis used Gabrielle Aplin's version a few years ago. 

Walking In the Air (The Snowman) – Howard Blake, performed by Aled Jones
I grew up loving The Snowman. It really means Christmas for any chid of the 80s and this brings back memories of dancing around the dining room at my Uncle's house aged about 4 or 5. My dear Uncle passed away when I was only 8 and I have so few memories of him but this makes me remember him and is an ongoing connection to him. It gives me goosebumps and brings a tear to my eye every year.

Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid (Original version, 1984)
You cannot beat the original! When I hear the first few bars of this on the radio I know that Christmas is just around the corner. It has so many of my favourite performers on it and I play the game every year of trying to remember who sings what line.

In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield
This is our 'dancing round the kitchen' song. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it. Brilliant!

Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade
This is the epitome of a British Christmas in the 20th century - a perfect snapshot of working-class festive experiences. And you cannot help but sing along!

Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens
Another 80s tune (were the best Christmas songs written in the 70s and 80s?) that I just love dancing to and singing along with. If I was on the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special I would just have to Quickstep to this!

Other favourites...
The Nutcracker - Tchaikovsky (especially the Waltz of the Snowflakes and the Pas de Deux)
A Carol Symphony - Victor Hely-Hutchinson (Dad's favourite and memories of the BBC's The Box of Delights)
A Ceremony of Carols - Benjamin Brittain (through my chest infection I've missed out seeing this at St Paul's Cathedral this year - so disappointed, it's the perfect start to the holidays!)
Last Christmas - Wham
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Judy Garland
Sleigh Ride - Ella Fitzgerald

I could go on forever and still be writing this list at Christmas 2015!
I hope this has been an interesting list of my reasons behind my favourite Christmas music.

What are your favourite festive tunes and why?

Sunday, 7 December 2014

52 Lists / Forty Nine

This week: List the things that make you feel all Christmassy

Twinkly Lights
I love seeing all the fairy lights twinkling on windows and trees in people's houses and shops. It makes the journey home so much more exciting. Then I reach my house and see our own lights and it makes me so happy to be at home. I just want to rush inside and get all cosy.

Special Decorations
I get so excited about the moment the decorations come out, making the house look beautiful and bringing back memories of past Christmases, special holidays and lovely people.

Sweet Spicy Scents
 I can't get enough of the smells of Christmas: mulled wine, cloves, cinnamon, mixed spice, Christmas tree. It awakens the senses in the mid-winter.

Christmas Radio Times
I'll be the first to grab the highlighter pen and have the pick of the programmes every Christmas.

Joyful Tunes
I have too many Christmas CDs and playlists. I love a bit of everything from Brass Bands to Corelli, choirs to Slade. I try to resist listening to anything until the start of December but from thereon I can't get enough.

Festive Greetings
I love receiving post but Christmas but with the continued tradition of Christmas Cards it means that there is so much more personal post and lovely things to open. I look forward to getting home and seeing a pile of cards on the doormat and waiting for Andy and the moment in the evening when we stop to light the Advent Candle, open the Advent Calendar windows and open and admire our cards together.

Children's Excitement
I get such pleasure out of my Nursery class' excited anticipation for everything that comes with Christmas, especially Father Christmas! Year on year it is just thrilling to listen to them saying how good they have been and hear what they hope to receive. Christmas Play rehearsals can be challenging at times but it is always a lovely event.

Festive London
I've always thought that London comes most alive in autumn and winter and in recent years it has looked spectacular at Christmas. From shop displays to Christmas lights and the big tree in Trafalgar Square; from present buying to festive get-togethers, London is magical at this time of year. It puts on a great show that is not to be missed!

Christmas Traditions
I'm a traditionalist family-girl at heart and this is most apparent at Christmas. I look forward to doing the same things with Andy, Mum and Dad at this time of year. We must go to Columbia Road and enjoy the flower market, pick-up the final bits of shopping on Christmas Eve and have a delicious lunch together, guess who is going to stuff themselves so full with food at Christmas Dinner so they are awarded the china pig and go to see a show during Christmas week. I like traditions so much that I seem to devise new ones every year. This year we have a Kindness Elf visiting!

That Warm Fuzzy Feeling
Most of all about Christmas, I love that warm fuzzy feeling that just happens at this time of year. Once you get all the panic out the way, the world becomes a happier place. There are lots of good-news stories on TV and in the newspapers, people donate more to charity and are more friendly towards each other, leaving each shop with a cheerful 'Merry Christmas'.

As the closing line of the Nursery Christmas Play goes: "It really is a special time of year."

What excites you most about Christmas?

Sunday, 30 November 2014

52 Lists / Forty Eight

This week: List your favourite flowers

They are so simple and yet so cheery.

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Lily of the Valley
My Grandma was called Lily and was from a mining village in the South Wales valleys, 
so these always remind me of her.

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They arrive at the point in the year when you need some sunshine.
They are sunshine on a stem.

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I love traditional roses, mostly in pinks, purples and creams.
Sweet Avalanche reminds me of our wedding as it was in my bouquet and used in all the arrangements. Aw!

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I have five plants in my little garden. 
If I could I'd have a garden full of them, they're so beautiful.

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For their scent alone.

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Just lovely.

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What flower fills your heart with joy?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

So cute!

The strangest thing happened this week.

We held the first of two Parents' Evenings at school and after her meeting a parent whose child is currently in another keyworker group (I'm the teacher overall but I have two Early Years practitioners who work with two of the keyworker groups and I work with the third. We rotate termly so we get to know all children and it helps me to plan and assess them more effectively) came back into the classroom and over to my desk to say "I wanted to tell you that you're a very cute lady". She's a very kind person herself so I was rather flattered but thought it was the strangest comment.

Is being cute a good thing? For me it has slightly negative connotations for adults. Do I look cute, is it what I think or what I do? Hmm.

Then this morning my husband pondered out loud  (after I'd been singing aloud about how cosy the cat was asleep on her chair): "I don't understand how you can be so clever and good at school and yet your head is full of so much fluff?"

Oh dear!

Despite being 32, having a 1st class degree and having the important responsibility of teaching 78 little people, I suppose my head is often full of fluff.

Why? I can give you so many answers but this is what candy floss is filling my head this week.

Picture source - Belle and Boo website

I have become besotted with Belle and Boo images, particularly there cosy Christmas ones. I seem to have recently acquired lots more postcards that I have blu-tacked around my desk. I think it's something to do with having the exact same hair-do as Belle, complete with sticky out bits at the back.

I am so excited about the new Paddington movie and will be hopefully watch it on Friday. I haven't ever been to see a film on the first day and there I am getting all excited about a children's film.

I am getting ridiculously excited about Christmas and got so dizzy when I walked past the local hairdressers and saw snowflakes and fairy lights in the window.

I saved a slice of marshmallow cake all week to share with Andy. We finally indulged on Friday night with a mug of hot milk with more marshmallows on top.

It is not a good list is it.

I fear that I'm like a dog owner who is slowly turning into their dog. I'm turning into the three year olds I teach. I hope that being on the same wavelength as a three year old means that it makes me a wonderful teacher but I'm not so sure. It's worrying!

So I confess,
My name is Joanna and I am cute.