Our 14th window and out pops an unusual Bob Dylan song

If you’ve ever wondered what Christmas Eve at Bob Dylan’s house might be like, the video for his rollicking Christmas polka song “Must Be Santa” offers a window into what happens when Dylan and his guests have a little too much eggnog.

Behind window 11 is British folk singer Kate Rusby

Kate Anna Rusby (born 4 December 1973) is an English folk singer-songwriter from PenistoneBarnsley. Sometimes called the “Barnsley Nightingale”, she has headlined various British national folk festivals, and is one of the best known contemporary English folk singers. In 2001 The Guardian described her as “a superstar of the British acoustic scene.” In 2007 the BBC website described her as “The first lady of young folkies”. She is one of the few folk singers to have been nominated for the Mercury Prize.

The beautiful sound of Anuna is behind window 9

Anúna is Ireland’s flagship acappella vocal ensemble representing the beauty of Irish musical heritage and literature all over the world.

In 1987, Irish composer Michael McGlynn founded the choir in an effort to create a physical voice for his compositions, many of which are strongly influenced by the history and mythology of his homeland. Ireland has a long and sophisticated history of traditional singing or sean nós. McGlynn uses this as the basis for much of his arrangement and composition. Within these songs are universal truths told through the landscape, the philosophy and the mythology of Ireland and beyond.

The name Anúna is derived from the Gaelic term An Uaithne, a collective description for the three ancient forms of Irish music –  Goltraí (song of lament), Geantraí  (song of joy) and Suantraí (the lullaby). An Uaithne and subsequently ANÚNA, is a uniquely beautiful instrument. Over the last thirty years its unique status in Irish musical life has allowed it to create and develop an education programme that the group have taken all over the world.

‘River,’ the ‘thoroughly depressing’ Joni Mitchell song that somehow became a Christmas classic

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Plenty of artists have been dreaming of a very, very blue Christmas over the last two decades: “River” — originally featured on Mitchell’s melancholy 1971 masterwork, “Blue” — has become a seasonal favorite, despite being “thoroughly depressing,” as Elbow frontman Guy Garvey noted at a 2009 Christmas concert.

Or perhaps it’s ascended to holiday-hit status precisely because it’s an antidote to all those “songs of joy and peace.”

“We needed a sad Christmas song, didn’t we?” Mitchell said with a chuckle on NPR in 2014. “In the ‘bah humbug’ of it all.”

“River” has long been a popular cover among musicians, more than 500 of whom have recorded it for commercial release. Countless others have performed it in concert.

“We kind of turned it into a Christmas song, even though it was not written as a Christmas song,” White, who started the “River”-as-holiday-song trend nearly two decades ago, said at a holiday concert in 2011.

Christmas collections it’s included in
  • British jazz-fusion guitarist Peter White featured it on his 1997 album, “Songs of the Season”
  • Barry Manilow’s “A Christmas Gift of Love”
  • Linda Ronstadt’s “A Merry Little Christmas”
  • Tracey Thorn’s “Tinsel and Lights”
  • Heart’s “Home for Christmas”
  • Sarah McLachlan’s Grammy-nominated “Wintersong”
  • Idina Menzel’s “Holiday Wishes” album in 2014
  • 98 Degrees’s new album, “Let It Snow”
  • Sam Smith, the best-selling British singer-songwriter, recently covered “River” for Spotify’s Christmas playlist and gushed: “Joni Mitchell is one of the reasons why I write music. … It was a dream to be given the opportunity to cover this song.”
  • Keane frontman Tom Chaplin’s new album, “Twelve Tales of Christmas” has a moody version of “River”

About the song

Linda Ronstadt said “River” was an obvious choice when she recorded her own holiday album, “A Merry Little Christmas,” in 2000.

Ronstadt said at the time that she’d never discussed the meaning of the song with her old friend, Mitchell.

But she had some ideas about what might have inspired it — possibly including Mitchell’s daughter, who was born in the 1960s, when the singer was 21 and about to move from Saskatoon to Toronto.

Mitchell gave the child up for adoption and didn’t have any contact with her until 1997.

“I think that’s what a lot of her singing is about, because it has this very sad tinge,” Ronstadt speculated. “But who really knows if that’s what ‘River’ is about? The answer is: I don’t know, and I bet Joni doesn’t, either.”

James Taylor

James Taylor, who knows the song better than just about anybody aside from Mitchell, said in a 2006 interview with The Post that “I don’t know why it’s suddenly getting picked up as a Christmas song. But some things just become identified as seasonal songs, and this is now one of them.”

At the time, Taylor had just released “James Taylor at Christmas,” which included “River” — a song he’d first heard decades earlier, when Mitchell played it at her home in Los Angeles in 1970, shortly after it was written.

“Most Christmas songs are light and shallow, but ‘River’ is a sad song,” Taylor told The Post. “It starts with a description of a commercially produced version of Christmas in Los Angeles . . . then juxtaposes it with this frozen river, which says, ‘Christmas here is bringing me down.’ It only mentions Christmas in the first verse. Then it’s, ‘Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on’ — wanting to fall into this landscape that she remembers.

“It’s such a beautiful thing, to turn away from the commercial mayhem that Christmas becomes and just breathe in some pine needles. It’s a really blue song.”

Taylor said the song is most likely autobiographical, given that “it starts with a girl from Canada watching them try to make Christmas on La Brea in Los Angeles.”

But he told The Post in 2006 that he’d never actually discussed the meaning with Mitchell, with whom he was romantically involved in the early 1970s.

“Do I want to know who she made cry, who she made say goodbye? Well, I haven’t asked her that question,” Taylor said. “That’s the only mystery in it: Who was it whose heart she broke?”

With a laugh, he added: “There were a lot of us.”

Introducing Our New Feature – Spotlight on a Music Student

At FFM, we want to highlight new and aspiring musical talent wherever we find it and where better than the many Music Colleges, Universities and Schools around the world. Our new feature ‘Spotlight on a Music Student’ is an opportunity for you or someone you know to step into the spotlight and share your talent, dreams and ambitions with the musical world.

All you have to do is send us your information, pictures, videos, sound clips and links  and we will compile your feature.

email direct to rogermoisan@yahoo.co.uk

Much love and happy music making,

The FFM team

Day 2 of our Musical Advent Calendar – Mike Oldfield – In Dulci Jubilo

The inimitable multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield with this timeless classic, In Dulci Jubilo.