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Allyson and husband, Billy, at Carnegie Hall in New York before the Bryn Terfel recital.

By Allyson Jay

My Rules for Holiday Music

December 17th, 2023

Yes, I am one of those people. In my house, nobody listens to holiday music until the day after Thanksgiving. There is one caveat to this. On Thanksgiving day while preparing our feast we listen to Handel’s Messiah. And truth be told, my husband and I are such fans of the Messiah, (especially the 2016 version featuring the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square with Rolando Villazón and Bryn Terfel – check it out) that my children tell me that when I’m out of town, my husband plays it no matter the time of year.

This hard and fast rule is not because I don’t like holiday music. I love it. And because I love it, I want it to be special, which means it cannot be overplayed. I have spent many years cultivating our Family Holiday Playlist which we listen to all over the house, in the car, while picking out our Christmas tree – once Thanksgiving has passed.

I’ve noticed my youngest daughter listens to it on her headphones while she’s cleaning her room. It’s an eclectic mix and includes Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, and one of my favorite albums of all time, Christmas with the Academy featuring the Academy and Chorus of St. Martin in the Fields.

And lest you think I only listen to classical music, (okay, I listen to a lot of classical music, no surprise there) it also includes, among other things, Harry Connick Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, CeeLo Green, Leslie Odom Jr., Los Lobos, and a really fantastic Hanukkah song called Puppy for Hanukkahfeaturing Daveed Diggs (seriously, check it out).

Every year I peruse all of the newly released holiday albums to see if there is anything I want to add to our family playlist. This year I haven’t added anything yet (thinking about adding Cher’s This Will Be Our Year, but can’t commit yet). Something I wish I could add is an incredible live performance that I got to hear at Carnegie Hall in early November.

My husband and I traveled to New York with some cousins to hear one of our favorite singers, Bryn Terfel. He gave an incredible recital featuring many traditional Welsh songs, some Ivor Novello, Schubert, and Debussy. It was all gorgeous and powerful in Terfel’s signature style. Then as an encore he sang I Wonder As I Wander. Oh no. It was a holiday song. Before Thanksgiving. Was I allowed to enjoy this?

I must admit, I really did. There is no professional recording of Terfel singing this beautiful song, but I’ve got the memory locked away and will keep hoping that he records it someday so I can add it to my playlist.

In the meantime, I have plenty of holiday music to enjoy. It really is one of the highlights of the season for me, and now I get to share some of that holiday music with the KVNO listeners on Modern Classics. We’ll be celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa on Modern Classics during the month of December, so be sure to tune in.

Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday season full of love, cookies, and some fantastic holiday music.