[During the swinging 60's Alexander Girard created a groovy color palette for Braniff's fleet of planes; image via Braniff Pages.]
A few days ago I received a very funny email from jet-setting designer Grant Gibson. (Remember how creative he is?) He had just landed in a beautiful place, and felt quite appreciative to be there, but didn't much care for the Christmas tunes blaring through the airport well before Thanksgiving.
[Grant Gibson photographed by Peter DaSilva for The New York Times]
He's not a big fan of holiday music to begin with, and the fact that it is played earlier each year turns him off even more. Listening to classical or jazz -- maybe something from Billy Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Diana Krall, or Ella -- is about as far as Grant goes in December.
He's right. Too much, too soon. It can all get so saccharin. Some of us, though (Millie, me), can't help ourselves. We look forward to the day after Thanksgiving when we can unapologetically start listening to the festive sounds. So I asked a few friends to share their favorite holiday songs and then I put together an almost hour-long playlist with the tunes that work best as background for addressing cards or wrapping presents. It's probably still too early, but here goes. (By the way, track four, The Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping," is perfect for anyone in a Grinch-y mood.)
Otis Redding "Merry Christmas, Baby"
The Drifters "White Christmas"
Ella Fitzgerald "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"
The Waitresses "Christmas Wrapping"
Diana Krall "Jingle Bells"
Joan Osborne "Santa Claus Baby"
Elvis Presley "Blue Christmas"
Ray Charles "Little Drummer Boy"
Bing Crosby and David Bowie "Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy"
Avril Lavigne and Chantal Kreviazuk "O Holy Night"
Joni Mitchell "River"
Sixpence None the Richer "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear"
Ella Fitzgerald "What are You Doing New Year's Eve?"
Barenaked Ladies "Auld Lang Syne"
And here is a sampling of the individual preferences:
Millie favors The Drifters' rendition of "White Christmas" and loves Ella Fitzgerald's "What are You Doing New Year's Eve?" Jennifer Boles also likes Ella and Johnny Mathis.
Jamey Hatley recommends Otis Redding's "Merry Christmas, Baby" as well as Elvis' "Blue Christmas" (Amanda Talley and Hayley Gaberlavage love the latter too.)
Laura Casey is partial to Frank Sinatra's version of "Santa Clause is Comin' to Town" and any beautiful version of "O Holy Night" but she especially likes Martina McBride's on the White Christmas album. Kelly Robson is another fan of "O Holy Night" and she and Mark Starnes both like "Ring Christmas Bells".
Shifting to a slower tempo, Mrs. Blandings gravitates to "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and I'm guessing she prefers a classic interpretation. My friend Cameron looks forward to "Silent Night" sung by by the Vienna Boys Choir.
Whether you prefer to wait until late December, or jump in full force this weekend, I hope these tunes add a kick to your holiday prep.
Of course there are also movies that don't specifically relate to the holidays but fit right in with a season that's supposed to be magical. Sandy Powell's Oscar-winning, jewel-tone costumes in Shakespeare in Love make that film a wonderful source for color inspiration. Those vibrant greens, peacock-blues and purples captivate me every year (I know I already mentioned that back in 2007).
There's also a stately four-poster bed hung with curtains that appear to be crewelwork. The bed and the bedroom's rich paneling make me think of some of Rose Tarlow's past projects. Don't miss the lustrous pumpkin-hued bolster either.
The last two images are screen grabs from Miramax's 1998 picture, Shakespeare in Love.