Thursday, October 1, 2009

A bit different from "Jingle Bells"

I've been listening to one of my favorite pieces from Bach's Christmas Oratorio: Schlafe, Mein Liebster ("Sleep, my dearest," imagined as a melody sung by the shepherds to the Christ Child). What if they played this in department stores? The lengthy and sustained development of the theme, so demanding on the baroque soloist, might just about equal the length of one's wait to be checked out by a sales clerk, and meanwhile, beguiled by the peaceful and contemplative mood induced by the music, you might forget to buy anything at all!

I think Macy's set a record of sorts about 3 years ago by starting to play Christmas music around September 10th. Of course, denouncing commercialism at Christmas is a favorite trope the world over, but I was startled to learn, a few years ago, that Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created by a man whose wife was dying of cancer at the time and who sought to divert their small daughter. Jack May, a copywriter for Montgomery Ward department stores, was asked to write a jingle as a promotional gimmick and came up with Rudolph. His only hesitation was that the image of a red nose was popularly associated with drunkenness, but he had an artist friend sketch a deer with a shiny nose, which sold his employers on the idea. Eight years after the song's successful release, he persuaded the store to assign the royalties to him, so that he could discharge the medical bills left over from his wife's death.

© Michael Huggins, 2009. All rights reserved.

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