It is difficult enough for all of us non-Christmas observers to muddle our way through this overwhelming time of year, without the added demand of having to defend ourselves from those within our own ranks who clearly have a lack of understanding about our own observances. Such was my impression from the article that appeared across my screen yesterday from Tablet Magazine. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a practicing Mormon, has written a brand-spanking new Channukah song and has recorded it just in time for the start of the festival. While I applaud the senator for his ecumenical leanings and his attempts to breach the religious chasm, I personally found the song he composed incredibly infantile and trite, and took great exception with author Jeffrey Goldberg's comments that he "always felt that the song canon for Hanukkah, a particularly interesting historical holiday, is sparse and uninspiring, in part because Jewish songwriters spend so much time writing Christmas music." While it is true that many beloved Christmas songs were composed by Jews, it should in no way diminish the incredible roll of Jewish artists that have and continue to compose outstanding musical representations of the festival. (BTW! Check out the lyrics for such modern Christmas standards as White Christmas or The Christmas Song, written by Tribe members Irving Berlin and Mel Torme, and you will find references to trees, mistletoe, gifts and winter, but no mention of Jesus or religion! They are actually acute examples of how Christmas has be inappropriately absorbed as a non-religious experience by so many outside of the Christian faith. Not exactly in the same vein as Adeste Fideles.)
Believe me, Mr. Goldberg, Channukah music ceased being simply about that Little Dreydl long ago, and it speaks to your ignorance on the subject when you fail to do your homework. The list of Jewish artists who have recorded some outstanding and truly rocking tunes for the holiday is too long to list in one post, but I will direct your attention to OySongs.com so that you might better understand the Jewish music culture that exists today and that seems to be sorely lacking in your education.
As a musician, who on more than one occasion has been asked to provide the token Channukah song in the "Holiday Program", I beg Mr. Goldberg and all those in the media like him who haven't kept up with the cultural and religious music from his own people, to take a closer look. We in the business certainly know the true meaning of this holiday and we kind of resent the ignorance being spewed by those who should know better. Mr. Hatch? Thanks for the present, but I think that I will be sharing the music of Beth Schafer, Julie Silver, Craig Taubman et al as my personal musical gifts for the season.