The Story Behind “Songs of the Seasons”

Christopher explains how his first Christmas song came about:

“Like many musicians, I give Christmas concerts every year when the season rolls around, so Christmas music is a big part of the holiday season for me. And I’ve always enjoyed the artistry and emotional power of the best Christmas songs. Plus, their reappearance every year makes them bring back memories when I hear them.

Of course, we all hear the most popular 40 or 50 Christmas songs every year on radio and TV, not to mention in stores and on the street. But there are many other Christmas songs I’ve heard over the course of my life that are not part of that group. So I decided to compile my favorite obscure Christmas recordings into a CD that I could listen to every year. That led me to realize that a lot of other great Christmas gems were out there not getting any airplay. So I began actively searching for really wonderful but seldom-heard Christmas songs. At the same time, I became interested in the stories behind the most popular songs and added that to my researching binge.

This Christmas music search was so diverting that I ended up doing it every December. The Internet makes it pretty easy to do. In addition to looking out for older gems, every time a new Christmas album comes out, listening to the samples on Amazon or iTunes gives me a good idea whether I’ve found another rehash of a familiar song or something unique and wonderful.

After doing this every year for about 10 years, it occurred to me that, without meaning to, I had given myself a pretty good education in the art of Christmas music. Meanwhile, as a long-time songwriter, it had honestly never occurred to me to write a Christmas song. I suppose I assumed all of the good ideas had already been used (many times over). And much of the new material that shows up every year ranges from predictable new versions of standards to bizarre songs that barely qualify as being about Christmas. But after 10 years of finding wonderful, obscure Christmas songs, I realized that it wasn’t true that all of the good ideas were used up—people were still finding new, emotionally right-on ways to write about Christmas.

When I reached that conclusion, I decided to stick my neck out and write some Christmas music. In fact, I thought, “Why not write an entire album of new Christmas material?” So I set out to do that, and with all of my careful listening to Christmas songs guiding me, I came up with a number of great ideas that I hadn’t heard done before. I set about turning those ideas into songs. However, I found very quickly that it’s almost impossible to work on Christmas songs most of the year. (The Christmas season is so overwhelming when it’s happening that thinking about it the rest of the year becomes painful.) So I figured I could write two or three Christmas songs every year, finishing a complete Christmas album over a period of several years.

I finished the first two songs in late 2011. The second one I finished was “Songs of the Season,” which incorporates a couple of the stories I’d encountered about classic Christmas songs. It also references the annual Christmas caroling party that my wife and I host, where our friends come over for food and drink and to sing the classic carols (indoors, thank you very much!)

The reaction I got when singing “Songs of the Season” for friends and family was so over the top that I made an executive decision to record it ASAP instead of waiting until I had an entire album finished. When arranging the song, having a choir on the recording seemed obvious to me, especially since I end the song talking about having our friends join us to sing Christmas carols. With a bit of effort I was able to enlist singers from the local chorale society to participate in the recording. And the result is pretty spectacular.

I hope you enjoy the recording, and I hope you have a very merry Christmas!