At this turn of every year, I wish, and probably most of us wish, for a world more at peace.
This year I'm disturbed by seeing my country at war with itself. It's been divided for a long time, but now it looks to me more broken than ever.
Optimism does not come naturally to me. I have to fight for it. Yet I will try to hope that the ugliness of this past week will be the straw that breaks our stalemate's back and some good and sane changes can come about.
The Obernkirchen Children's Choir had one huge-selling record, "The Happy Wanderer," in the 1950's and was briefly a household name for that. Their Christmas album appeared in 1966 as a gift to my parents by a close friend, and immediately locked in as THE sound of Christmas at our house.
For no particular reason, I've checked the internet periodically for any info or sign of revival of this album. The original family copy is still around -- that's it, above -- but we wore it out so thoroughly that it sounds like it was used for First Base. About 10 years ago, I found another vinyl copy on eBay and got it to burn my own CD's off of.
This year, way back in summer, I offhandedly typed "Obernkirchen" into a search and somebody somewhere has finally discovered it and made it available again! You can get it on amazon.
No CD is available -- it is MP3 downloadable, only.
There are a few awesome things about the digital age. Nobody has to invest in a lot of disc production and distribution to make something obscure available.
So now that it's there, I can recommend this album, if you want something slightly different.
But READ THIS FIRST : It is not flawless musicianship. This is an album for people who love good amateur work and care more about joy than technique.
The story of the Choir is basically this : After the devastation of World War Two, social worker Edith Moeller and a fellow social worker were finding and caring for German war orphans and they badly needed money. She made some of them into a choir and raised funds.
This is not the cherry-picked magnificent voices of the Vienna Boys' Choir, or other pro groups. This is real, ordinary kids, and they work their butts off doing pretty amazing choral work, but they hit a clinker sometimes. Not that often. The fast songs work a little better than the slow ones, but still and all, these kids are singing their hearts out.
And they are singing each carol in its original language. It's heavy on German carols for obvious reasons, but one of the most touching things about it is this choir that originated in war singing about something that transcends nations. In French, Spanish, English.
They learned them all phonetically, and that shows, but has a particular beauty. They've learned to pronounce the English "Go Tell it on the Mountain." And the French "En Flambeau." (Jza-nette Ee-sabella in their German accents) and it's wonderful.
It's delightfully joyous and imperfect, and even though this album came enough later to feature a newer crop of kids than the original survivors of the war, Moeller is making a choir out of kids whose life events have landed them in her care.
Mostly the carols are familiar, a couple were not, to me as a kid, and aren't that common.