Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mitch Miller and Christmas Traditions

Today Doug told me that Mitch Miller died. Evidently he died Saturday, July 31st. He was 90 years old. I don't know about you but Mitch Miller is a part of my childhood Christmas traditions. My favorite Christmas album (yes album) is Mitch Miller & the Sing Along Gang - Holiday Sing-Along with Mitch. My siblings and I grew up listening to and robustly singing along with Mitch's many Christmas songs all December long. The coolest thing about Mitch's Christmas Sing-Along album was the album size piece of paper with the lyrics to all but one of the songs typed on it. Mitch said something like everyone knew the words to The Christmas Song so he did not include the lyrics on the page. Frankly, they ran out of room and couldn't include lyrics for all the songs on the album, but nice try Mitch.

There must have been three or four of these papers inside the album jacket. I don't remember fighting over the sheets so I think that there must have been four sheets.
Although my youngest sister is five years younger so presumably she didn't need a song sheet for awhile. Being the good child of the family, she would not have fought the other three of us for a paper. We'd sit or sprawl out across the family room floor with my parents and each of us kids would get a sheet and sing right along with Mitch. One of our favorites was Must Be Santa. Oh we loved trying to keep up with that song. I do have to say that to this day, in my opinion, no one sings Silver Bells better that Mitch Miller.

I never thought of this as a particular tradition or anything special until I met Doug. At one point while we were dating Doug was at my [family] house and we came across my family's Christmas albums. I think the albums were on a bookshelf in the living room. Anyway he pulled out the Mitch Miller album and began sharing his family memories about singing with Mitch and the sheets of music in the album. Doug also mentioned Chet Atkins and sure enough we pulled that album out of the collection too.

Then it turned out that our mutual good friend Joe Vizzi also grew up with the Christmas Mitch Miller. We all shared our memories of those family gatherings. It was very interesting to hear how similar our experience with the Christmas Mitch Miller was.
At the time I was amazed by the fact that although we grew up across the United States from each other, Doug in Seattle, WA, Joe in Tampa, FL and I in Memphis, TN, had different religious upbringings, ethnic backgrounds, and age differences we shared an almost identical family Christmas tradition. We all agreed that the coolest part of Mitch was the song sheets.

At this point in time CDs were becoming popular and Joe had the Mitch Miller & the Sing Along Gang - Holiday Sing-Along with Mitch CD. He lamented that it wasn't the same without the sheet music. I remember that we thought they should include an address on the CD where we could send away for the sheets of music to go with the CD. Keep in mind that this was in the ancient days before Al Gore invented the Internet (although, no lie, Al Gore is way older than me). It was also before scanners and copy machines were all over the place. We never thought to photocopy the sheet music. Mitch also had another sing along Christmas album and once again we all agreed that it was not a family favorite. Why? I'm guessing that it was because the songs were more traditional in nature and no lyric sheets accompanied the album.

Today we have many of our old Christmas favorites in CD form. Although with Doug and I, our children haven't grown up sitting around and singing Christmas songs like we use to. Do they get inundated with Christmas music from the day after Thanksgiving until the Epiphany? Absolutely!! I wonder what their favorite Christmas songs and artists are? What's yours?

On a side note, I've mentioned before Doug's tremendous enjoyment of music. Every other year my school has a big fund-raiser where they have silent auction items and live action items. The past two fund raisers we have donated a CD and I-Tunes card basket. Both years the baskets consisted of rock oldie CDs that Doug literally begins purchasing the day after the fund-raiser for the next event in two years. He gets the best of the bargain CDs. For the next fund-raiser in 2011-2012, we had decided on donating a Christmas CD themed basket. Mitch Miller & the Sing Along Gang - Holiday Sing-Along with Mitch was one of the first CDs we purchased for our future basket.

I'm sure that Mitch will continue to live on in a Guns & Roses, Lady Gaga, etc. generation.


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Homerun Hatch Family News said...

You are welcome. One correction though, my husband says the traditional Christmas sing along with Mitch did have song sheets.