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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Carolers: A Comic Christmas Song


If I worked in retail and had to endure the same Xmas songs being played constantly as background music I'm sure at some point I'd just lose it. About the 4,000th time through, say "The Little Drummer Boy," my sanity would snap, and I'd go down on all fours, biting customers on the ankles and snarling like a mad dog until captured and institutionalized. One can only take so many rum pum pum pums.

Through the years I've collected Christmas songs that are not the usual fare. These come from many sources, including Broadway shows, which are a surprisingly prolific source for new holidays music. I'm particularly fond of comic Christmas songs such as "I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas" (I have several versions, including one sung by The Three Stooges!) or "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" (which, when first released in 1952, was condemned as immoral). But only a few of my favorites are funny, and many are quite lovely. Years ago I put them on a looped recording and played them during the holidays in lieu of the usual fare. I assumed visitors would be pleased to hear this new Christmas music, but my then-partner Jerry's mother complained that she missed the traditional songs! That hurt.

To add to the festive mood of late December, I once wrote a comic Christmas song of my own, "The Carolers," and included it on my album, "Strange Songs" (see the post of that title, September 29, 2010, explaining the madness). You really need the music to appreciate "The Carolers" completely, but I thought it might amuse you to get some idea of the piece. We recorded it in 1977, with Gregory Stobbs singing the lead vocal, Tim Ihle at the piano, and "The Strange Songs Choir" (all law students or law professors of the day) performing their hearts out, while William Cooper, another law student, handled the sound effects (which were extensive). I myself sang the voice of the monster at the end.


                       THE CAROLERS

[A loud and happy group of carolers, both men and women, sing a series of "fa, la, la"s. Then the soloist takes over.]

Solo:
Listen to the merry sound! [All sing "Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la!]
Carolers have come around! [All sing "Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la!]
The night was dark and still they sang,
While in the park one of their gang
Heard first a bark, then felt a fang! [All sing "Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la!" They continue to sing these syllables while a dog is heard mauling a screaming caroler.]



Solo:
They lost a voice, but they don't care. [All sing "Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la!]
One less caroling book to share! [All sing "Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la!]
Quite undeterred this hearty choir
Sang like a bird, they didn't tire,
And then they heard the sniper fire! [All sing "Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la! Shots ring out and two carolers are picked off .]



Solo:
Their numbers thinned by tragedy [All sing "Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la!]
Still they sang out lustily [All sing "Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la!]
Another dog began to bay [Dog howls]
They had to jog to get away,
And in the fog, the truck looked grey [All sing "Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la! Sound of large truck coming fast, carolers scream as a bunch of them go under its wheels]


Solo:
Two carolers, just you and me [He and the remaining caroler
sing "Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la!]
Sing in two-part harmony [Same]
A friendly soul said, "Come in here
And have a bowl of Christmas cheer!"
You drank the whole, a poisoned beer! [Both sing
"Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la!" and then he continues to sing these
syllables as she chokes, sputters, and dies in agony.]



Solo:
And now I carol all alone—Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Behind that tree I heard a groan—Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la!
And while I sing I strain to see
What sort of thing is tracking me!
I'm struggling to stay on key—Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la!
[As he continues these syllables, the monster pounces, and the soloist manages to say "Oh, my God!" before being devoured. The monster finishes the remaining fa, la, las]



My nephew Adam, when around eight years old, became fascinated by "The Carolers."  He played it for a number of his friends, thus traumatizing an entire neighborhood.

Should you care to hear the Strange Songs album version of this choral masterpiece, you can listen to it free at http://douglaswhaley.bandcamp.com/track/the-carolers.

Now, I ask you: isn't "The Carolers" an interesting addition to the usual holiday music? Let's all gather around the tree, hold hands, and sing it together!
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Related Posts:
“The Boot Camp Fiasco,” April 21, 2010
"Strange Songs, Inc.," September29, 2010
"The Evil Big Birthday Song," November 5, 2010

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