Michael Bird new mug

Michael Bird

            “Mr. Bird, why are you listening to Christmas music?”

            This query came back in October, one afternoon as I was straightening the chairs in the band room.  iTunes was running through the amplifier to keep me company, and I was singing along.

            “This isn’t Christmas music,” I said to the young lady.

            “It sure sounds like Christmas music,” the student replied.  “Like HOME ALONE or something.”

            I couldn’t understand what she was talking about.  I mean, it was Frank Sinatra, for goodness’ sake. 

            The Chairman of the Board was singing one of his best, “All The Way”.  As the students passed through on their way to the buses for their after school ride home, I was raising the roof with Ol’ Blue Eyes.

            After that day, I have wondered why that music sounded like Christmas to the girl.

            In the weeks since, as radio stations have constantly played holiday tunes, I’ve attempted to find common threads.  I’ve determined four ideas to explain the student’s comments.

            To today’s young people, accustomed to Auto Tune software on all their favorite pop songs, hearing an unadorned singing voice is a foreign concept. 

            Hearing a real, live orchestra in the arrangements is also a radical departure from many of today’s radio hits.

            The laid-back, swinging vibe of many 1950s and 1960s Christmas LPs, many of which form the foundation of the modern-day “classics” heard on Muzak and adult contemporary radio, was in vogue at the time of the original releases. 

            Finally, younger ears simply aren’t used to hearing the contour of melody.  A lot of contemporary music is rhythm-based rather than melody-based, so you can dance to it – but it’s mighty difficult to sing along.

            As we celebrate Christmas Day, may we also find the time to sing and listen to the joyous music of the past.

            And, despite what seems like most of the world hating us, we celebrate the birthday of someone who was so important, we started counting the years Anno Domini – in the Year of our Lord.  In war-torn Afghanistan, where we depart after a decade-long adventure this week; or the mean streets of cities and towns across America where police and citizens have lost faith in one another; or even in places where God’s name is only called out in profanity … everyone will pause on December 25 to remember the Reason for the Season.

            God bless you, and Merry Christmas.

Michael Bird is a band director for Tallassee City Schools and co-hosts “The Saturday Morning Show with Michael Bird and Scott Adcock” on 580 WACQ and FM 101.1.

This column first ran in the Tallassee Tribune in 2010.