Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Slurpees and Murder Record Club: Unsurprisingly, Lots of Christ in the St. Mary's Academy Christmas Album (JUBILEE!)

Merry almost-Christmas, listeners, and welcome to the Slurpees and Murder Record Club!

Today's lost local Christmas album is vastly more traditional than our most recent installment; it's more in line with last year's Christmastime entry, though twenty years later and with the jump in recording equipment to match.

So get your stockings and your eggnog and your Christ-love if you're into that, because it's time for:

St. Mary's Academy Jubilee Choir - JUBILEE! (1994, cassette)
[school website | school history | no records related to the choir seem to have been kept, alas | to give you some idea of how rare and lost this album is, "St. Mary's Academy Jubilee Choir" turns up zero Google hits as of this writing | so, yeah, no, this album's out of print ]

Usually, in digitizing a cassette, I'll noisegate out the ambient tape hiss; my efforts to do so with this album were resulting in some serious sound-quality issues with the actual music, and you know how I hate to spoil someone's hard work, so I left it in and preserved the fidelity of the audio as closely as I could. So you may notice a background hiss on headphones and on certain sound systems, or you may not. Or maybe I'm just being persnickety about a minor thing! This is possible too. ANYWAY--

This is as traditional and delightful as a full-out-Christ Christmas album gets, released in 1994 -- well, it's technically undated, but you can see the cover as well as I can -- released in 1994 to commemorate both the 150th anniversary of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary and the 120th Anniversary of the St. Mary's Academy itself. (You can read up on the history of both here, particularly if you need a refresher on the Sisters.) And the sound quality! This is quite spectacularly clear and crisp for a school-choir recording, and I say that as someone who's heard more than his share of school recordings in his time.

There are some off-the-board selections here, or at least some generally less-appreciated compositions, and I am totally on board for that; it's always just really nice, this time of year, to hear anything outside of the usual repertoire. Even as a self-identifying do-good-white-infidel-atheist, I'll take Christ-y rarities over the same inescapable handful of overexposed secular slosh. I'm curious like that.

I don't even remember the last time I heard "The Holly & the Ivy" before this album; "I saw three Ships" always, inevitably makes me think of this Kate Beaton comic; and a fair number of local folk can't hear "Go tell it on the Mountain" without thinking of this. (And neither can you, now.)

The capitalization on a lot of these album tracks may seem off, but I'm just the messenger on them; all of the song titles are [sic], as both the album cover and the cassette can confirm. Not capitalizing the 'Merry' in "We wish you a merry Christmas" takes some serious mental unlearning, for example. But I figure, hey, they know more about these songs than I do.

As best I can tell, the male soloist who appears in some of the songs -- likely also the man in the picture on the front cover -- is musical director Dr. W. Chancy, who I can find zero information about online. (Heck, everything about this cassette is a mystery to the internet, at least until I put this post up.) Generally, though, musical directors of choirs are pretty good at singing, and such is the case here; Dr. Chancy takes the lead on a fair number of songs, and he is great. Like, "world-class before we started slapping 'world-class' on everything" great. The choir's great too! The whole thing is surprisingly great, it's an unshakeably solid Chris-a-mas album.

Here are a couple of songs with both Chancy and the full Choir on them, for your previewing enjoyment:

St. Mary's Academy Jubilee Choir (soloist Dr. W. Chancy) - O Come Emmanuel
St. Mary's Academy Jubilee Choir (soloist Dr. W. Chancy) - Rise up Shepherd

So Merry Christmas, one and all! I hope you enjoy this album; put it on tonight or tomorrow, I think you'll really like it.

And that's our post for today! I'll have a Manitoba Links Weekly up sometime later this week, but a surprising percentage of it (spoiler alert) boils down to "don't drink and drive", so don't drink and drive. Stay safe, everyone!

No comments: