If this is a fair sampling of the Yuletide spirit in Calypso territory, then it must be a fine time indeed. Christmas and merriment have long been associated in our part of the world, but when the fascinating beat of Calypso rhythm is put underneath it, something very special is the result – an innocent and joyous Christmas music that can even be danced to!
Leonard De Paur and his much applauded Chorus have grouped together here twelve Christmas songs that reflect this yearly Joy to the World in terms of the warmer regions of the globe. In doing so he has also compounded a moving revelation of the universal appeal of this holy day, the deeper meaning of which is clear, in warm weather or cold, all over the world.
Christmas In the Tropics -- Lyrics and music by Jester Hairston. Solo: Hamilton Grandison.
It’s always fun to make comparisons, though, and Christmas in the Tropics does just that. To us, a Christmas Eve when, instead of an evergreen, the whole house is decorated “with trinkets and tropical fruits” is amusing in itself as are fireworks in the afternoon and the idea of spending the day “in a panama hat and white linen suit”.
De Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy (Trinidad Calypso). From the Edric Connor Collection – by Max Saunders and Hal Evans. Solo: Herbert Stubbs
This is, of course, the story of the Nativity told in Calypso style, and if there is a more appropriate and pithy description of the essence of this tale than the line “He come from the Glory” it would be hard to find.
Sweet Little Jesus Boy – By Robert MacGimsey Arranged by Leonard De Paur. Solo: Luther Saxon.
This is surely one of the most affecting pieces of music of its kind, an apology, in effect, to the “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” for His troubles, with the simple and somehow very moving explanation: “We didn’t know who you was.”
Mary Had a Baby – Negro Spiritual arranged by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw.
This is a question-and-answer type Spiritual: Mary had a baby; What did she name him? Where was he born? etc. A solo tenor helps give the answers. The music is marked with the instructions “Rhymically; Sweetly,” and that’s how it is.
La Virgen Lava Panales – Mexican traditional arranged by Leonard De Paur. Solo: Joseph Crawford.
An imitation of guitar strumming by the de Paur voices underlies this beautiful Mexican melody, sung in Spanish and English. It presents a simple picture of the Virgin washing the swaddling clothes of the holy infant near the manger to which the shepherds come to worship.
Christmas Present for Sallie (Calypso derived from Barbados Folk Lore) by Leonard De Paur. Solo: Hamilton Grandison.
This is the sad, comic story of a man made “a victim of hospitality”. Starting home on Christmas Eve with a present for his wife, Sallie, he is assailed by friends and relatives insisting he share their holiday spirits. In the course of drinking toasts to his wife and others, he loses the present, his wits, and his Christmas Eve with Sallie. When Sallie catches up with him she gives him twelve empty rum bottles around the head. But when he gets out of the hospital he will buy her a new present and make the best of “a very bad situation”.
Mary’s Little Holy Chile – Calypso by Jester Hairston, arranged by Leonard De Paur. Solo: Hamilton Grandison.
What a jumping-for-joy retelling of the Christmas story this is! There is even something wonderful about the slightly anachronistic idea that Christ was born “on Chris’-a-mus day”, as the song says. And at the end, it’s “Joy roun’ de worl’” indeed.
Oh Poor Little Jesus -- traditional, arranged by Leonard De Paur.
This is another touching expression of sympathy for the Christ Child, in anticipation of the trial that lay ahead. Who can help feeling that the words “Dis world gonna break your heart” speak for the humble all over the world as the Saviour?
Mary, Mary, Where Is Your Baby? (Spiritual) – by Jester Hairston. Arranged by Leonard de Paur.
This is again a question-and-answer tune, the questions being put to the Virgin as she tends her new-born on Christmas morning. To the question: “Mary, Mary, what you call your baby?” the answer comes: “I think I’ll call my little baby Jesus.”
Roun’ de Glory Manger – traditional arranged by Leonard de Paur.
“Dey turn ‘way Mary an’-a Joseph ‘way from de inn, an dat’s what made de Glory Manger!” says the song. Then it goes on to such playful details as: “An’ all His pretty little fingers played in de straw.”
What You Gonna Call Yo’ Pretty Little Baby? – Traditional Christmas Spiritual, arranged by Noah F. Ryder.
The naming of the Christ Child is again the subject. Then the suggestions come: “Some say one thing, I’ll say Emmanuel” and “I’ll call him Jesus.” But most of the piece is given over to the repetition of the question.
Ring de Christmas Bells – Lyrics and music by Jester Hairston. Solo: Grady Menefield.
A fitting climax to this Calypso Yule, a recounting of the three rich kings that brought gifts to the holy Child. First came Gaspar bringing Frankincense, then old Melchior with myrrh, finally Balthasar with a gift of gold . . . “and He shall be King of Kings!”
Notes by Charles Burr
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Calypso Christmas - The De Paur Chorus 1956
I found this LP and really love the songs. I have, as usual, run it through my software to remove some of the noise so that it is more enjoyable to listen to. And as usual I have included a CD insert page. It has the original cover art but cleaned up (since my LP cover was a little dirty and dingy).
Instead of writing my own review, I have decided to include the review from the back cover of the LP. Here it is in its original version.
Buy my Christmas CDs at VintageMusicRoom.com. Click here. (12/20/10 Calypso Christmas LP has been added to VintageMusicRoom.com so that it is now for sale for $12.99.)