The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

Four professors share their favorite holiday songs, albums and the personal significance their choices hold for them

 

 

The holiday season has become such a central part of our popular culture that an entire music genre has developed around it, with subgenres popping up left and right under its vast umbrella. Like any other genre, the listeners are as eclectic as the music – and the professors at California State University, Stanislaus are no exception to the tradition.
Several professors from multiple departments sat down with The Signal last week to share their musical picks for the holiday season.
“I’ll be honest with you, there are some years when I don’t even know if I like Christmas music,” Dr. Daniel Afonso, Director of Choral and Vocal Activities, joked at the beginning of his interview. “It’s just so much.”
Because his job, Dr. Afonso begins rehearsing his choirs for the holiday season in October, so his candid feelings are understandable. But he was quick to name his favorite Christmas song, “Carol of the Bells.”
“There are so many other songs that I just really love that it’s like picking five, it’s like choosing who are your favorite children,” Dr. Afonso said. “It’s so unfair.”
So instead of listing his top five favorite holiday songs, Dr. Afonso has opted to give his five picks for Christmas albums.
Each album represents one of the many genres that compile Dr. Afonso’s taste in music, ranging from classical choral music to Christmas jazz standards to the lighthearted piano melodies of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and many others – including the Christmas album of his favorite band, Pink Martini.
“They do stuff that’s really quirky,” Dr. Afonso said of the band. “It’s a mix of pop and classical and folk. […] Everything they do has a little funky twist.”
English professor Dr. Molly Winter, on the other hand, prefers holiday music that’s a little less funky and a little more traditional. With songs like “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Joy to the World” on her playlist, there is no questioning Dr. Winter’s anticipation for the coming holidays.
“The first song on my list is ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel,’ which is the song expressing expectation and longing for the coming of Emmanuel,” Dr. Winter said.
“The next is ‘Joy to the World,’ a song of uncontrolled happiness and wonder – everything, even rocks and water ‘repeat the sounding joy.’”
But Dr. Winter also reflects on the spirit of giving and compassion often associated with the holiday season in her playlist.
“For me the figures in these songs – baby Jesus in his mother’s arms, the lowly shepherds who have been personally called to witness – reflect our own humanity,” Dr. Winter said.
“They remind us that Jesus declared his solidarity with the poor, the suffering, the displaced – and that we are called to help when people need help.”
Dr. Elenie Opffer, professor of Communication Studies,  has a similar mix of both classic songs about the season, such as “Jingle Bells,”  and more religious Christmas carols, such as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman.”
“Jingle Bells” by Alvin and the Chipmunks is a song that Dr. Opffer holds near and dear to her heart.
“Me, my brother and my sister would listen and sing along to the Chipmunks Christmas songs over and over and over again. It brings back such fond memories of the holidays with my family. I remember all of us screaming, ‘Alvin.’”
Another unique holiday favorite of Dr. Opffer’s is “Christmas In Killarney” by the Irish Rovers.
“I love Irish music. In Ireland, they still have a really strong culture of playing music together. Just getting together, face-to-face with their instruments and just playing music,” Dr Opffer said.  “You see it all over Ireland, when the weather’s good or when the weather’s bad. I love that part of Irish culture. When I hear Irish music, it reminds me that they keep music a personal, familial and community creation. It’s authentic.”
With classical songs from Bach’s Christmas Cantatas to rap/hip-hop covers of holiday favorites, it’s easy to see that David Kangas, professor of Philosophy, has a diverse taste of holiday music.
“‘Santa Baby’, is a rap/hip-hop take on the classic by the same name,” Professor Kangas said. “I like it because in a very witty and sometimes sexy way it imagines Santa’s arrival in the ‘projects’ and inner city. Santa here is a black man. Without being preachy it gives an ironic perspective on the orgy of consumerism.”
While Professor Kangas does enjoy his fair share of cheery, upbeat Christmas tunes, he also appreciates the ethereal sounds of the Icelandic band, Sigur Rós.
“Sigur Rós’s music seems to embody the beautiful but barren Iceland. It creates a feeling of desolation that you can be ok with,” Professor Kangas said. “Sometimes, as in ‘The Christmas Song,’ their music barely attains being music – it’s almost more like sounds. But it manages to express moods that we often like to ignore.”

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Four professors share their favorite holiday songs, albums and the personal significance their choices hold for them