Thanksgiving Music: Last Chance to Hear This Year

By , November 24, 2009

It seems like only yesterday I posted about the all-too-short Thanksgiving season, and now the day’s almost upon us! It really is too short a time to enjoy some of the nicest music of the year. I alluded previously to the music we play on the homestead at this season, but I neglected to provide any details. Now seems like a good time to take care of that:

The most obvious and best CD of Thanksgiving, for us, is Thanksgiving: A Windham Hill Collection. We’ve become quite fond of the quiet artists of this label, and they offer some great versions of some traditional seasonal hymns. It also offers less traditional material that fits the season well. Particularly, I like that it ends with the song, Thanksgiving, from George Winston’s CD December, Piano Solos. I love this song, and regret that it often gets lost on the original album, which is essentially a Christmas CD. In this collection, it holds its proper place.

Another CD that only gets played at Thanksgiving time in our house is also by George Winston, Forest. This is not a specifically seasonal album, but it has selections that have particular associations for us.

Forest is very much a “shoulder season” disc in our home. It includes interpretations of three tunes from the beautiful little movie, Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, a Christmas standard in our home. And yet, it’s not enough of a Christmas album to earn it a place on our CD player during that season.

For me, it’s the first cut, Tamarack Pines, that’s most evocative. My parents used to live in a tiny town in central Montana. One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is of driving from the west coast to their house for Thanksgiving, and seeing the bright yellow tamaracks on the mountain slopes along the highway, almost disappearing in the falling snow. This cut, and the following one, Forbidden Forest are perfect for days like today, when the snow falls steadily, and the promise of a sumptuous feast looms!

Somewhere I came across a copy of In Search Of Angels, the soundtrack to a 1994 TV documentary. Its Christmas selections (angels, after all, feature heavily in the Christmas story) have earned it a place in our Thanksgiving collection for the same reasons as Forest. Its version of the old hymn, Star in the East, is particularly good.

The American Vocalist by the Boston Camerata is a very rare album of New England “shape note” and other traditional folk hymns. This, too, has a Christmas section mixed in with more “every Sunday” hymns. It’s old-fashioned style feels right to us at Thanksgiving.

Because of the shape note selections and its older folk music, the official soundtrack to the movie, Cold Mountain also gets a lot of play in our cabin at Thanksgiving. It gets play at other times of the year as well, but more so now.

Another CD that plays throughout the year, but helps round out our Thanksgiving soundtrack well, is Prayer: A Windham Hill Collection.

A newer favorite of ours is While the Trees Sleep by David Nevue. As a winter, but non-Christmas CD, we’ll hear this again after our Christmas celebration ends the night of January 6th.

Finally, we’ve had to turn to making homemade collection CDs to round out our Thanksgiving soundtrack.

All of these discs are in “heavy rotation” on the homestead until Thanksgiving. The next day, we switch to all Christmas music all the time!

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