17    Dec 20120 comments

Sleigh Bells Ring: Holiday music

What is it about holiday music? Those catchy tunes we can’t get out of our head? The musical notes that bring us back to earlier times?

It really doesn’t matter if the listener celebrates Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanza; that winter music - religious or secular - just gets deep inside our bones. Important family events take place at the holidays, and a particular song may bring back all kinds of warm, fuzzy memories.

A favorite of mine is "Sleigh Ride," in the instrumental version by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Written by Leroy Anderson in 1948, Mitchell Paris added the lyrics in 1950. Here's the story behind the song. It is considered one of the top 10 most popular Christmas songs ever, even though the holiday is never mentioned in the lyrics.

When I hear it, I know it is the holiday season!

According to a Johns Hopkins University study, seasonal music brings us together, says Jeffrey Sharkey, director of the school’s Peabody Institute. He’s a pianist, composer and music educator.

"We take comfort in ritual," Sharkey said. "We take comfort in hearing some familiar songs, some familiar melodies expressing familiar sentiments at a particular time of year. It is something that brings us together and binds us together."

While his favorite holiday song is Coventry Carol, he adds

"Carols have a particular place in people's hearts because they come at a very important time -- the Christmas season," Sharkey said. "I think whatever one's religion, these carols are part of, certainly, the Western tradition. And there's a ritual element to the carol."

What is your favorite holiday music? Share with us in the comments below.

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