29 November 2011

The Sound of Christmas

When I was little and Christmas time came rolling into our home, one of our yearly traditions was watching a recorded VHS of Julie Andrews's TV special "The Sounds of Christmas" from 1987. We watched it over and over, slowly wearing out the film rewinding and replaying our favorite songs, and even watching the commercials.  There was an awesome one for Columbian Coffee where a gallery of statues came to life... this was before CGI.

What was this awesome thirty minute special all about? Glad you asked.  The wonderfully talented Julie Andrews narrates her journey and sings throughout Salzberg, Austria at Christmas. It's like a bunch of music videos strung together as a story.  Guests include The King's Singers, Placedo Domingo, and John Denver doing all kinds of beautiful/ funny performances-- from Julie stumbling into a rehearsal between Mozart (Denver) and his "musicians" (King's Singers) to attending a fairytale ball at a grand mansion.  It's beautiful and lovely and reminds me of being home at Christmas as a kid, not to mention my inspiration for some day spending Christmas in Austria... and tracing my roots.

Sidebar: I'm assuming you know who John Denver is... "Sunshine on My Shoulders" folk singer who died when he flew into a mountain. I was just thinking last night it's sad that he isn't still alive.  He does a great skiing number in the special and I wanted so bad to see it again.  Placedo Domingo is a famous tenor (The Three Tenors ring a bell?)-- of course, this was before he was one of the Three but he was still ever so famous.  And now The King's Singers. They're an acapella group from England that perform all kinds of musical styles from classical to pop to folk to sound FX. My parents knew one of the originals.  It was they who first introduced me to the Beatles, Paul Simon, and U2. No joke.  If you know who they are we need to be besties... like yesterday. Everyone (including my husband) look at me funny when I talk about The King's Singers.

Thoughts of this special are so bittersweet for two reasons: Julie Andrews can no longer sing (get choked up thinking about it) and our recording was accidentally taped over many years ago and it nearly broke my mom's heart.  She loves Julie-- her favorite actress, singer, talent-- and Placedo, and John Denver, and TKS. This was a favorite special of hers.  We got a DVD copy (by that I mean a worn VHS recorded onto DVD) a couple years ago with NO commercials.  Still-- it was a blessing to get our hands on a copy.

And then something happened. I went on YouTube this afternoon and some amazing human being with excellent taste and an affinity for technology uploaded the whole show with commercials!!!  I'm listening/ watching it AT. THIS. MOMENT. And the quality is pretty good for a 1987 recording.  So grateful.  I hope you look it up and have the patience to get through commercials and a few recording flubs because it's just awesome.  Of course you might watch it and think I'm a total dork... and that's okay too.  It's not going to be everyone's taste. I'm just happy I can look it up in my favorites any time I want.  What a great way to kick off the Christmas season.

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