Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Michael Feinstein Follows Irving Berlin Tradition In Making December Merrier

Michael Feinstein
This is the time of year when just about the only music you hear on the radio and piping through mall speakers is Christmas music, or if you will, winter holiday music.  Not many people know that many of the most popular of these songs were written by Jewish composers.  

It's pretty well known that Irving Berlin composed White Christmas.  But did you know that the composers or lyricists of Winter Wonderland, Sleigh Ride, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), Silver Bells, and Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer were also Jewish?  Nate Bloom documents the details and more in an article published online in 2007.

When it comes to public performances of holiday music, there is none to compare to Michael Feinstein.

As Gregory Beyer reported in The New York Times last Saturday about the people who attend his club,
Whatever their status or provenance, they are there on a musical pilgrimage, to see a boyish, middle-aged Jewish man sing Christmas carols. The club is Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency on the Upper East Side, and the man is Michael Feinstein, the singer and pianist who has become the chief spokesman for and preservationist of the Great American Songbook. For his devoted fans, his annual holiday series, which this year features a 12-piece band and is titled “Swing in the Holidays,” is as much a Christmas season ritual as catching the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall or visiting the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
But Feinstein's musical renderings are mostly secular.  As Stephen Holden wrote in his Times review earlier this month,
But for all the shows’ seasonal trimmings, the religious aspect of Christmas is conspicuously absent. Santa Claus, mistletoe, snowy wonderlands and hopes for peace on earth proliferate, but the Nativity remains backstage.
Mr. Feinstein, being Jewish, is a good-humored champion of Hanukkah. At last week’s opening night performance of his new show, “Swing In the Holidays,” he and the 12-piece Winter Wonderland Big Band (many of his usual musicians under the direction of John Oddo) took the popular children’s ditty “I Have a Little Dreidel,” a k a “Dreidel Song,” and conjured the sound and style of an imaginary Frank Sinatra Hanukkah album.
For a taste of Feinstein's music, here he is performing a Gershwin medley.  Enjoy!


  1. Very good, thank you for sharing this and the other nice stuff during the year! Wish you a happy 2011!