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Off Center…

By Staff | Dec 28, 2012

I’ve always enjoyed music.

Listening, playing, watching others play — music has been a huge part of my life and is my favorite pastime.

Certainly a day doesn’t pass when I’m at the very least humming a tune walking around the office or driving in my car.

But recently I’ve been tossed into the world of Christmas music on a whole new level.

A few members of my bluegrass band The Roughriders were privileged to play a few Christmas tunes at the Prairie Village Museum’s Old Fashioned Dinner fundraiser earlier this month.

It was quite the experience for someone who hadn’t really played much Christmas music, but fortunately a few of the more talented members of the band were able to carry us through.

And earlier this week, I did a short stint of caroling with the Lions Club, which is very active around the holidays.

The only thing that could possibly turn me off from Christmas songs is the fact that it you sometimes start hearing them in mid-November, and by the time Christmas finally arrives, weariness has set in.

But with all my recent exposure to holiday music, this thought came to my head: “Why haven’t there been any Christmas classics written recently?”

Of course most of the greats go back dozens if not hundreds of years and have become classics through them being played and sung at millions of church services.

Or in the case of secular classics like “White Christmas” or “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” through renditions by the likes of musical giants like Bing Crosby.

But it seems to me the last great “classic” was “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” penned in 1979.

So maybe time has to pass before a song can be considered a Christmas classic.

Maybe there have been a few of more recent vintage, and I just don’t know about them.

But I challenged my bandmate and ace songwriter Micah Scott with a proposal: He and I are going to write what one day might become a Christmas Classic.

It’s a pretty lofty goal, but I think everyone who’s ever tried to write a song does so with the intentions of it being of high quality, regardless of the genre.

Attempting to write a Christmas song opens a plethora of questions.

Generally writing a song starts with a theme and a key, or maybe a riff or melody line to work around.

For a holiday song, the number of themes are plentiful, but a lot of them have been exhausted with great success. Is there room for another classic about Santa Claus or the birth of Jesus? Maybe, but it might be fun to go in another direction while still trying to keep with the traditions that are so prevalent in great Christmas songs.

And aside from theme, there is the musical makeup. Many Christmas songs are pretty intricate by pop standards, with passing chords and all sorts of diminished chords and minor key additions.

Probably not complicated to someone schooled in classical music, but it can get a little heady for a guy who belts out Hank Williams tunes to himself as he drives around in his car.

Sounds like I may have signed us up for a pretty tall task, but a worthwhile challenge.

Merry Christmas and maybe we can come up with something that make Christmas merry for future generations.

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