Carols For a Cure

It has come to that time of year when legions of people search through their CD collections for their Christmas music, full of bells, pipe organs and heavenly choirs.  Or, quite possible, cloying sentiment about being home for a good old-fashioned Christmas just like we’ve always known.  Almost every household in the land (including many non-believing households who just like the time of year) has at least one of them somewhere, and will dust it off for a few weeks before putting it back to sleep for eleven months.  My mother has quite a number of tapes and CDs now with a whole variety of Christmas tunes on them, and will play nothing else for a week or so either side of the day itself, though she will make an exception for music that was received as a gift.  A favourite yuletide game is to guess who many times the hideous Amy Grant collection of seasonal sentiments will hit the tape deck.  I can generally cope with it once through, more than that is likely to cause an allergic reaction and a sudden urge to listen to rap just for some form of balance.

It has become a yearly tradition with me now to purchase the annual edition of Broadway’s Greatest Gifts: Carols for a Cure, an album featuring the performers from numerous Broadway shows contributing a wide variety of seasonal tracks in order to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.  This is a theatrical charity concerned with awareness and fundraising in the continued fight against AIDS, among other causes.  Most of their fundraising is carried out in New York, as their name rather suggests, but this is one of the ways that far-flung people can support them, by ordering their Christmas CDs through their web site.

The first listen to any of these sets is always intriguing, as the different shows come up with an incredible mixture of songs and the odd spoken piece between them.  From traditional arrangements of familiar carols to more modern versions, alongside comedy pieces, new Christmas songs and the occasional track celebrating one of the other holidays celebrated at this time of year.  The results range from side-splitting to yawn-inducing and from beautiful to mildly painful.  But there are always enough of the very good tracks to make the set worth buying even without that extra glow of knowing that money is going to a good cause.

Over the last couple of days, while switching mode from ‘study’ to ‘sleep’, I have given this year’s batch its first spin, and have once again been struck by the mixture and by the generosity of the numerous people who contribute towards it.  Highlights include rather marvellous renditions of such carols as ‘Joy to the World’, ‘Angels We Have Heard On High’ and ‘What Child Is This?’, the last of these being sung by the cast of Spring Awakening, a rock musical, perhaps proving they can sing in different idioms.  Light-hearted entries that tickled this librarian include the cast of Wicked deciding how best to sing ‘Jingle Bells’, where the country version really has to be heard to be believed, and the good people of Curtains telling the rather lovely story of the ‘Monotone Angel’.  There’s a bit of Mozart in the pot as well, and the whole set concludes with a duet of the most wonderful ‘O Holy Night’.  Not the greatest version I’ve ever heard, but still welcome.

So here I sit, listening to everyone from the Altar Boyz to Xanadu spread a bit of Christmas cheer in a glorious pot pourri that should contain something for everyone.  Not every track pleases, and one or two are really aimed at Broadway insiders, but this has become part of the countdown for Christmas for the Singing Librarian.  However, can someone please explain ‘Dominick the Donkey’ to me – what is that all about?

    • Phil
    • December 7th, 2007

    Thankfully there are not many christmas type cds in our collection.
    One is a collection of medieval carols and others take a more folky pagan type look at midwinter festivities with carols mixed with wassail songs and tunes for dancing round the fire to.
    Certainly beats all the standard shmaltzy fare on offer at this time of year.

  1. I’d rather have traditional and beautiful or funny than schmaltz. Unfortunately, there can be a fine line between beautiful and cringeworthy sometimes!

  2. I quite like Frank Sinatra singing Christmas songs and carols 🙂 You can’t beat him!

  3. That sounds like good fun. I have the first A Very Special Christmas album and am in fact listening to it right now (I was writing my Christmas cards and needed some appropriate music). I love Chrissie Hynde’s version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas on that one. Another favourite of mine is John Fahey’s Christmas album, just him on accoustic guitar.

    What’s your favourite Christmas Carol?

  4. Hi,

    I produce this album (I found your entry from a Google Alert!). Thanks for the kind words. Dominick the Donkey was a song sung by the Italian-American siger Lou Monte in the 60’s. It had been all but forgotten until a NYC DJ began playing it a few years ago. SInce then, it’s been played on the Sopranos, sealing it’s place as an Italian holiday anthem.

    If anyone is interested in ordering any of the Carols CD from 1999-2007, please visit my site or

    Thanks again and happy holidays to all,
    Lynn Pinto

  5. Mrspao, Old Blue Eyes is hard to beat in any context. I have an EP of Michael Buble singing Christmas songs which I’m rather attached to as well.

    Az, my favourite carol is ‘Joy to the World’, partly because it is indeed joyful, and partly because of the bit where the men do the echo. I also love the last verse of ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ (“yet what I can, I give him – give my heart”). The latest Carols for a Cure has a stunning arrangement of that verse by the Broadway cast of Mamma Mia. The lyrics mean a lot to me!

    Lynn, thanks for dropping by, and for explaining Dominick the Donkey. I’ve never seen the Sopranos (shocking!) or, to be honest, heard of Lou Monte, which would explain my confusion. And yes, do go to the site and order one or more of the Carols sets. 🙂 Thank you for producing these, they are a most welcome part of advent for me.

  1. November 28th, 2010

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