Fred Waring

The Meaning of Christmas

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The term "concept album" had not been coined when this holiday record was released by the legendary Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, but it nonetheless seems an apt description of the approach Waring took on The Meaning of Christmas. The first side of the record consists of choral settings of 13 familiar Christmas tunes strung together by Waring's spoken reflections on the meaning of Christmas. "Christmas means many things to many people," Waring intones in his introduction to the joyful "Holiday." "It means gifts, glamour, celebration, meditation, reunion, reminiscence, old friends...a time of great joy." The second side consists of only two tracks. The first is the Pennsylvanians' jolly six-minute rendition of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," which is probably the most famous musical adaptation ever recorded of that everlastingly popular holiday staple. The record concludes with "The Song of Christmas," a 17-minute medley of sacred carols sequenced to tell the Biblical Christmas story. "Let us not forget that to all men of goodwill who would pray for peace, Christmas means Christ," Waring suggests in an introduction tainted slightly by unintentional religious chauvinism. The record contains several charming performances, but among the highlights are the pretty "Carol of the Bells" and a snappy piano rendition of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" that recalls Waring's jazzy roots. A timeless Christmas classic.

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