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  • Betty Girardeau

The Sound of Music


What would be the holiday season without its music? When I arrived at my son's for Thanksgiving he was already getting into the Christmas spirit by listening to holiday music on his Sonos speaker. His initial station wasn't that great and I suggested that he find one that had a greater selection of all kinds of music and carols associated with the season. He hadn't realized that there were so many offerings of holiday stations available. For the five days I was there we listened to quite an array of music. Shortly after returning home I found a station on my own Sonos speaker and every evening and some afternoons when I have been baking my house has been filled with the lovely sounds of the season. I have learned that this pandemic year many radio stations started playing this music even earlier than usual. One station in Indiana, in fact, started playing Christmas music occasionally back in July! I think that is just a bit too early for me, but when asked by the station manager why they were playing this music so early, he replied, "We knew that the world was topsy-turvy and we just knew from playing Christmas music over the years that there's something special about it that people connect with." The station wasn't being solely altruistic in doing this. They needed a boost to their ratings. Like many radio stations this year, the Indiana station had seen a radical drop in their ratings since the start of the pandemic mainly because most people tend to listen to the radio while driving in their cars. Christmas music has always been been a source of rating gold, so stations, as in the case of the one in Indiana, were looking for ways to lure back listeners. Apparently this has been a success. When asked why, Emily Boldon, an executive for Cumulus Media that has some two dozen FM stations across the country, theorized that she thinks that "everybody is trying to rush the holiday this year just so we can get beyond it. I really truly believe the audience was just ready to get to the end of 2020 as fast as possible this year." Christmas music is strongly linked to nostalgia, and, thankfully, comprises a variety of genres from religious to secular. Prior to the 1930s, most Christmas music was traditionally religious in nature, but after the Great Depression there was a stream of songs of American origin most of which did not even explicitly reference the Christian nature of the holiday. Many of those songs became popular when I was a child, like "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman," and, of course, Bing Crosby's rendition of "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas, " which is still at the top of the charts. And no self-respecting new artist in recent years would not consider making his or her own Christmas album. During much of the day as I am busy doing a variety of things, my house is pretty quiet. But as the day draws to a close and I begin to turn on my Christmas lights, I am cheered by turning on my favorite Christmas music station, too, and fill my house with the sounds of familiar tunes. It's rather like inviting old friends into my home to share dinner with me. In a year that has been extraordinary in ways none of us could ever have imagined, things that are familiar and that can evoke happy memories have proven to be especially important and I am thankful for all of them.

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