the subtle sounds of a vintage christmas

the original grinch, circa 1965, "stuffing the tree up."

you're a mean one: the original grinch, circa 1966

By the conventional means with which we normally view live music as it occurs on Friday and Saturday nights, we have now upon us what can rightly viewed as a slow weekend.

The clubs will be closed. The arenas will be empty. The theatres will be dark. Nearly all manner of entertainment life as we know it will be stilled for a few days. Looking for cool live music tonight or tomorrow? Go to church.

So what The Musical Box has come up with as Christmas knocks on our door this weekend is something different – a sampler of soundtracks, if you will, that embrace the holiday’s unavoidable sense of tradition. This is music designed over the decades not as something that sits in the spotlight, but rather in the distance (or, in some cases, in the shadows) as accompaniment for some of the greatest Yuletide stories ever told in film or on television.

Sadly, not all of these tales make the TV rounds at holiday time. Some, thankfully, do. And with shopping season nearly over, your best bet to sneak a peak at their narrative and musical magic over the holiday weekend is to search them out on the internet. Discovering even one of them is like getting a Christmas card from another time. Their looks and, of course, sounds may seem distant and foreign. But their sentiments remain wondrously timeless.

Happy hunting and Merry Christmas.

patrick macnee and diana rigg having a dickens of a christmas in "one too many christmas trees"

patrick macnee and diana rigg having a dickens of a christmas in "one too many christmas trees" (1965)

+ Too Many Christmas Trees (1965) – A holiday episode from Diana Rigg’s first year on The Avengers. The plot deals with John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Mrs. Peel (the drop dead gorgeous Rigg) getting invited to a Christmas getaway at the estate of Brandon Story, an eccentric publisher that has his guests dress up at a Christmas Eve ball as characters out of Charles Dickens stories. There is a cockamamie sub-plot about criminal psychics. But the Yuletide charm of Steed as Sydney Carton and Mrs. Peel as Oliver Twist is a delight. The score, all hushed tones of winds and strings, is ultra discreet. But Macnee and Rigg take the musical reins by singing ancient folk songs to combat the evil psychics. Best viewed after the kids turn in. Seriously. A bonus: Story is played by Mervyn Johns, who portrayed Bob Cratchit in the 1951 film of A Christmas Carol. Speaking of which…

the greatest screen scrooge of all: alastair sim in "a christmas carol" (1951)

the greatest screen scrooge of them all: alastair sim in "a christmas carol" (1951)

+ A Christmas Carol (1951) – As overly familiar as it might seem to be, Dickens’ epic holiday ghost story remains a vital tale of reclamation and continues to define the human side of the holiday season. Many expert tellings of the tale exist and many a fine actor (Albert Finney, George C. Scott, Mr. Magoo) have portrayed the unrelenting miser Ebenezer Scrooge. But this exquisite black and white version with the great British actor Alistair Sim tops them all. Again, the orchestral score is powerfully subtle. It chirps merrily along when the story takes us through the streets of Camden Town. But the way the strings slice through the starkly lit, spider-webbed corners of Scrooge’s shabby digs as Marley’s Ghost appears is downright creepy. Put this one on tonight just before midnight for maximum spookiness.

charlie brown eyes his tree in "a charlie brown christmas" (1965)

charlie brown meets his favorite holiday tree in "a charlie brown christmas" (1965)

+ A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – Admittedly, this is an obvious choice. But so what? You need a score card to count the ways A Charlie Brown Christmas remains relevant today. It’s a tale told completely through the innocence of children but addresses ever-so-gingerly such grown-up themes as holiday commercialism and seasonal discontent while cutting to the chase to explain, as Linus puts it, “what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” But the music simply beams. It is as childlike as the storyline with a piano trio swing score that reinvented the career of pianist Vince Guaraldi. The music glides like a ballet one minute and bounces with irrepressible bop joy the next. A rightly recognized classic all the way around. Put this one on as you wrap last minute presents this afternoon.

art carney does santa claus in "the night of the meel" (1960)

art carney stars as a "loaded" santa claus in "the night of the meek" (1960)

+ The Night of the Meek (1960) – If the ScyFy network had any nerve they would show this outstanding holiday episode of The Twilight Zone around the clock on Christmas just as WTBS traditionally runs A Christmas Story. The Night of the Meek represented series creator Rod Serling at his Dickensian best. There are no monsters on airplane wings, no paranoid suburban freak shows here – just a drunkard dime store Santa Claus played by Honeymooner Art Carney who gets fired from his job on Christmas Eve. Seeing nothing but misery and poverty in the streets he has been cast out to, Carney makes a profound and selfless Christmas wish that, of course, comes true. The music? Well, let’s put it this way. You will never hear The First Noel quite the same way again after seeing this. Ideal for Christmas Eve evening viewing. (The Night of the Meek is viewable at

+ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) – Another no-brainer of a pick. Forget the windbag Hollywood version starring Jim Carrey. The magic of the holiday beast known as the Grinch is the creation of the ultimate odd couple: Dr. Seuss and Boris Karloff. Together they give life to the land of Whoville, where Christmas is welcomed with smiles, songs and Rube Goldberg-like toys that create the “noise, noise, noise” that sends the green-hued Grinch into conniption fits. The great Karloff, in one of his final projects, served as the voice of the Grinch as well as the story’s narrator. The resulting warmth he provides is intoxicating. The Seuss music is as classic as the storyline, from the chorus of Welcome Christmas sung in the Whoville town square to the booming baritone voiced Thurl Ravenscroft belting out You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch (“You’re a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich… with arsenic sauce”). Perfect for Christmas Eve afternoon viewing with the family or on Christmas morning, providing you can detour the kids from the tree. Otherwise, check it out on ABC Family at 7 or 9:30 p.m. Christmas evening,


States News Service March 1, 2011 WASHINGTON, DC — The following information was released by TechAmerica:

Dear Leader Reid, Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi:

On behalf of TechAmerica, the largest voice for the U.S. technology industry representing over 1,200 companies, I’m writing to underscore the adverse impact that a government shutdown would have on hundreds of technology companies which currently contract with the U.S. Government and the over 7.6 million federal government contractor employees in the private sector. here government shutdown military pay

While we applaud Congress for apparently reaching a recent continuing resolution agreement which will avert a government shutdown and keep the government running another two weeks, we strongly urge you to pass a broader measure to fund the government through fiscal year 2011. The on-again, off-again nature of the current budget debate in conjunction with the on-going, looming possibility of a government shutdown has brought business between contractors and the federal government to a virtual stand still. This climate of uncertainty has resulted in an adverse ripple effect causing the private sector and government agencies to halt or freeze advances in government services largely due to the current unresolved long-term budget situation.

Federal contractors and their employees depend on government operations in order to sustain both their business, as well as their finances. Government agencies often utilize contractors in order to provide talent it cannot recruit, specialized services that it cannot produce, competition it cannot generate among its own organizations, and equipment that it cannot and should not build itself. Federal government contractors often perform vital work such as researching new vaccines, running federal computer systems and making body armor, weapons and meals for the military. The reliability of a stable customer found in the federal government as the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world is often an economic driver for business productivity and continued job creation especially during difficult economic times.

As Congress continues to debate a long-term budget resolution, we’re hopeful that you will keep in mind the severe impact that a shutdown would have on the thousands of companies and their millions of employees as well as the goods and services provided by them daily to federal agencies. Specifically, thousands of businesses would be left to wonder how awarded contracts will move forward. Many federal contractors fulfilling current opportunities have already allocated dollars towards those projects and are bidding on new ones, with the assumption that those investments would be recouped when the contract payments are made. But the uncertainty of how to juggle those resources, in the meantime, creates cash flow problems for all businesses contracting with the federal government. in our site government shutdown military pay

In addition, many small businesses will not be able to survive a combination of the inability to work during a protracted shutdown, coupled with not receiving prompt payment for services rendered that were already performed directly for the government. We believe the uncertainty could force federal contractors to lay-off employees and cut back on salaries and benefits in order to remain fiscally solvent. The amount of revenue lost in the case of a shutdown can be difficult, if not impossible, to make up during the rest of a company’s fiscal year and can ultimately lead to the elimination of jobs across the country.

TechAmerica strongly urges you to consider the adverse economic implications that a federal government shutdown would have on federal contractors and their employees. We recommend that Congress and the Administration work together to expedite passage of a long-term FY 2011 spending bill in order to avoid uncertainty in the marketplace that we believe could undermine our fragile economic recovery and halt needed government services for the American public. We also write President Obama today with a similar request urging the White House to work with Congress on finding a long-term budget solution.

Thank you for your consideration of TechAmerica’s views on this important matter.

Sincerely, Phillip J. Bond Preisdent and CEO

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