Vuelie (Opening Theme from “Frozen”) by Cantus, 2013
In 2022-23, we are celebrating 10 years of “Frozen”, the smash-hit Disney movie!
From the Disney Wiki - “Inspired by indigenous Sámi and Scandinavian culture, the song was written and composed by Norwegian composer Frode Fjellheim. It is a combination of Saami yoiking and the Danish Christian hymn "Dejlig er jorden"/"Fairest Lord Jesus", also composed by Fjellheim. The score was composed by Canadian composer, Christophe Beck, with additional vocals by the Norwegian female choir Cantus.
According to Fjellheim, the syllables of the song have no linguistic meaning, being part of the vocal style. Vuelie is the South Sámi word for "yoik”. A yoik is both a type of Sámi song, and a unique vocal style used to perform this (often referred to as “chanting”).
Raining Tacos (on Christmas Eve) by Parry Gripp, 2012
What is Christmas if you can’t have a bit of silly fun? The original Raining Tacos was created in 2012 by Emmy award winning songwriter, Parry Gripp. Parry’s music has been featured in works by Disney, Marvel and Cartoon Network. He has also written songs for “Phineas and Ferb” where he also appeared as a special guest. Parry Gripp’s Youtube channel continues to publish new content regularly and boasts over eight hundred thousand subscribers.
This song will always be special for me as it was the first one that I sequenced for lights from beginning to end. I may look back someday and regard it as quaint, but it serves as a reminder that it is more important to produce something rather than wait for it to be perfect the first time around.
I especially enjoyed making the “yuletide bells” in the windows and the arches at the bottom of the display representing the “crunching shells” - after all, from the side, arches do look like tacos, right? In the “Pachelbel's Cannon” riff, I also liked enabling my garage to sing.
Credit: Parrygripp.com - https://www.parrygripp.com/about/
The Polar Express, 2004
While it was never directly featured in the film (an abridged version was featured during the credits), this song embodies the wonder and excitement of Christmas, trains, the North Pole and how we view this wonder as we view it as children and adults. Tom Hanks is featured greatly in this song, but never actually sings - a spoken word part. (Does Tom Hanks sing in general? Actually yes - when he starred as Fred Rogers in “Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”). I hope you enjoy the show and the following little design elements:
- The opening train signal - the red lights mimic a train crossing.
- The bottom 4 design elements (trees and arches) rotate in a manner representing a wheel on the engine.
- During the instrumental interlude, a tunnel effect is created starting from the center and expanding outwards, followed by utility poles on either side.
Glow Worm / It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas by Rockapella, 1994
There will always be a special place in my heart for contemporary a cappella music, and that includes a cappella Christmas music. While this song may seem otherwise unremarkable, it does have a few interesting aspects.
First, with regards to the writing credits, it contains several notable names, including Paul Lincke, Lilla Cayley Robinson, Johnny Mercer, Mel Tormé and Meredith Wilson. Mercer wrote lyrics to over 1500 songs and co-founded Capitol Records. Mel Tormé you may recognize as the creator of the far more popular Christmas tune “The Christmas Song” (i.e. “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”). Finally, Meredith Wilson may sound familiar as he was the driving force behind the Broadway show, “The Music Man”, writing the lyrics, book and music.
Next, you’ll notice that this really isn’t one song, it’s 3 distinct songs wrapped together.
- “The Glow Worm” was originally written by Paul Lincke in 1902 in the original German - “Das Glühwürmchen.” The lyrics have drifted over time, but the basic tune still persists.
- “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” features in one half of the duet, and was written by Meredith Wilson.
- “Pinecones and Holly Berries,” the other half of the duet, is also credited to Wilson. I suspect that the arranging of the three together can be credited to Mercer, Robinson and Tormé.
I really enjoyed putting this piece together. As you experience the song, note the following elements expressed through the lights:
- Obviously, the lamp post represents the glow worm for a good majority of the song. You can watch it blink happily to the beat or sometimes do things to get attention.
- “Pay no attention if you shoot off” - during this section, all the other lights just blink randomly, giving the impression that they don’t care (i.e. aren’t paying attention). Notice that the “glow worm” keeps his constant steady beat and is the brightest light in the display.
- “You know that you’re a pint sized Rudolph” - As we all know, Rudolph’s nose is red, so all the red lights are turned on to flash to the music. You’ll also see them light up for “flash your beacon”
- “Hoping to get your lantern show” - Watch as the light radiates from the glow worm out to all the rest of the lights in the display.
- “Swim through the Christmas night…” - As the lyrics are sung, the light snakes up from the corner of the yard across the display.
- “...light the way for Blitzen and Prancer” - The roles of these two reindeer are played by the windows outlined in blue.
- “Fly with care, for your protection…” - The two windows on the top act as navigation lights, like those found on boats and aircraft. Red to port (left) and green to starboard (right). The porch lights act as strobe lights for this Christmas flight.
- “...you could wind up in a bottle” - The candy canes, columns and porch icicle lights create a tall rectangle - a bottle, or at least, my best representation of such.
- The duet - The display is split between the two songs. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” is expressed on the left side while “Pinecones and Holly Berries” is on the right. The arches at the bottom maintain the beat throughout the duet.
Credit: Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_(Rockapella_album)
The Chipmunk Song (“Christmas Don’t Be Late”) by Alvin and the Chipmunks - 1958
First recorded in 1958, this song is either a timeless treasure or one of the most annoying songs ever recorded, depending on how you view it. It holds the rare distinction of being one of only two Christmas songs to ever reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and was the sole holder of that achievement for 61 years. (The other? Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, which was recorded in 1994, but didn’t claim No. 1 until 2019). On the other end of the scale, the song was featured on American Bandstand’s “Rate-a-Record” segment and earned the lowest possible rating across the board.
This unique number was created by Ross Bagdasarian, who wrote, sang and recorded it (but credited the song to “Alvin and the Chipmunks”). The song went on to win 3 Grammys. The unique sound was created by varying the tape speed to produce the high pitched “chipmunk” voices. As you listen, note that Alvin sings in the right channel, Simon is 100% in the left channel, and Theodore is split left and right.
Growing up in the 80’s, I watched many an episode of “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” The slapstick antics and array of additional songs was an easy watch on Saturday mornings. I even owned a vinyl record filled with Chipmunk Christmas songs, of which my two favorites tended to be “All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth” and the “Christmas Don’t Be Late” knockoff, “Wonderful Day” (don’t judge :-)).
As you watch the song, notice that each chipmunk is represented by their appropriate shirt color, according to the show - Alvin in red, Simon in blue, and Theodore in green. Dave (i.e. David Seville) is represented by the lamp post.
Credit: Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chipmunk_Song_(Christmas_Don%27t_Be_Late)
When We’re Together by Idina Menzel, Kristin Bell, Josh Gad and Jonathan Groff, 2017
Disney spinoffs garner a lot of flack in the public forum. For example, assertions include stating that the music of Frozen II is all the B-side tracks and that the shorts are almost exclusively for merch sales (granted, I think this definitely applies to the snowgies).
This number, however, is an overlooked gem. “When We’re Together” is an inspired, honest and vulnerable track that speaks to the true spirit of the holiday season. Gathering with your family, whether they are family through blood or experience, regardless of where you gather, is one of the best things that make this time of year special.
Taking a broader look, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” was actually very highly produced given that it was a short (abeit a lengthy short at 21 mins length). It is really a mini-musical and the music, including “When We’re Together” was recorded by an 80-piece orchestra.
Sequencing this track was both a challenge and a pleasure. Moving from the simple opening to the full bombast of a rock musical was a feat to accomplish. What is surprising is that the full strength and sound power in the number (1st part of last chorus) is only there for less than 20 seconds, yet it feels far bigger..
Credit: Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olaf%27s_Frozen_Adventure