My KPFA - A Historical Footnote





A Classical Christmas




When I joined the staff of the UC Berkeley Music Library in 1958, I was asked to put together a selection of appropriate music for the University Library’s Christmas party. For a couple of delightful weeks I spent my spare time going through various record collections, including my own, and making a selection of Christmas music, ancient and modern, that avoided the usual war-horses. (Bing Crosby’s lugubrious rendition of Silent Night was conspicuous by its absence.) The tapes were played every subsequent Christmas.


Four years later at KPFA I put them up as miscellany to fill the odd gaps in the broadcast schedule during the Christmas season. In 1966 I brought the masters with me to London, where, as sound technology evolved, I transferred them successively to compact cassette, then to minidisk, then to CD and ultimately into mp3 for my iPod.


And now here they are to share with the world. Considering how many times the tapes were played and how many generations they’ve gone through, they are still remarkably listenable. They’re in two hour-long segments so that the selections needn't be individually downloaded. You can access them HERE and HERE.




I didn’t write down the sources at the time, so these notes are from half-century-old memories. The selections are not strictly in this order, but are interspersed a few at a time.


Corelli, Christmas Concerto   First of several recordings by I Musici.


A Mediaeval Christmas    New York Pro Musica, conducted by Noah Greenberg.


Traditional French carols    Choral/instrumental arrangements from an LP that a friend had brought back from France.


Benjamin Britten, Ceremony of Carols   Conducted by the composer. (The pronounciation and intonation of the Danish boys choir leaves something to be desired.)


Traditional Early English Carols   Performed by Alfred Deller and the Deller Consort.


Hans Leo Hassler, Motets   Deutsche Grammophon Archiv.


Hector Berlioz, L’Enfance du Christ   Boston Symphony, conducted by Charles Munch.


J. S. Bach, Christmas Oratorio, Opening Chorus & Sinfonia   Deutsche Grammophon Archiv ARC3079. This was one  of the great German conductor Fritz Lehmann’s last recordings before his death in 1955; Gunther Arndt conducted the last two of the six cantatas in 1956. I still have the original LPs.


Music of Medieval Court and Countryside  Russell Oberlin, New York Pro Musica conducted by Noah Greenberg. Half a century ago the fans of Russell Oberlin and Alfred Deller were as passionate in their divergence as the followers of Stravinsky and Schoenberg. We in the Oberlin camp prized his instrumental purity and austerity and his extended range, totally free of falsetto; today I metaphorically embrace them both.