Tuesday, December 04, 2012

25 Days of Holiday Music: Day 4

"The children sleep upstairs and Santa works below."

In my childhood, Christmas Eve and Christmas morning loomed very large. Christmas Eve in particular was a flurry of activity because, for many years, we waited until that day to put up the tree. Oh, we already had it, and by Christmas Eve day it would have been resting on the front porch for a few weeks, just waiting for its big moment. But it was Christmas Eve -- and, yes, the evening to be precise -- that the tree got to be front and center for a few hours. I have vivid memories of my father first rearranging the furniture to clear the bay window area. Then he would drag in the tree which was wrapped in old throw rugs and such to avoid scratching the floor or door jams. Next, he would judiciously saw off some lower branches to prepare it for the tree stand. The scent of pine filled my nostrils and the sounds of Christmas music wafted throughout the house.

Later in the evening, after a visit to church (yes, there was a time in my life when I attended church) and a helping of Christmas sausages, my father would read a story. The story was always a choice between 'Twas the night before Christmas or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I'm not certain how we alternated between them -- maybe even years for Night and odd for Rudolph, or maybe my sister and I took turns choosing the story -- but the important thing is that, as far as we kids were concerned, that story concluded all family work for the evening. After the story, my sister and I would be sent to bed.

[Continued after the break.]

Did you notice I didn't mention anything about decorating the tree after it was put up? I hope you caught that, because it's an important element in the magic of my childhood. You see, in my house, Santa not only visited to bestow a bevy of gifts, he also decorated our tree! Well, at least he did until (ahem) we were old enough to be part of the decorating ritual.

As clearly as I recall my childhood Christmas Eves, I have a less vivid recollection of when I first heard today's featured holiday song. Like many folks, I probably didn't even hear of the artist, Vertical Horizon, until their breakout single, which was the second single and title track of their third studio album, Everything You Want (1999). Vertical Horizon had been around since 1991 when Matthew Scannell and Keith Kane formed an acoustic duo at Georgetown University.   I loved Everything You Want so much that I dug back into Vertical Horizon's catalog. And there I found "The Man Who Would Be Santa" sitting inconspicuously on their second studio album, Running on Ice (1995). Now, it is not as though Vertical Horizon is known for Christmas songs. But they are, in my opinion, quite adept at crafting songs that tug at memory and bespeak the ties that bind people together. And, so, every time I hear "The Man Who Would Be Santa," I am taken back to those childhood evenings in my Elk County hometown. But only the first verse is tied to that memory. The next two focus on later stages of The Man Who Would Be Santa's life. And it is because of this long story arc that the song so very much reminds me of my father, particularly now that I an in my 40s and I am watching my father become that old man who "sits and tells of days when time stood still."

I think I may be getting a little misty eyed just thinking about it.

"The Man Who Would Be Santa" was never released as a single, so there is no official music video. For your reference, this YouTube video features the version of the song that appears on the album. For your entertainment, however, the embedded video in this post shows Matt Scannell, the frontman of Vertical Horizon, performing a solo acoustic version of today's featured song at the Atlantic Auto Mall in West Islip, NY.

The Man Who Would Be Santa

And the man who would be Santa slips into the room
And the hour of daylight's yet to come but he hopes they don't wake too soon
All the presents wrapped in paper and tied with a bow
The children sleep upstairs and Santa works below
And he can hear the children dreaming

And he says
All I want is for you to have
A life you love and live
Take from me all I have to give
Because you are in my heart

And the man who would be Santa tells his son to write
And to call him if he needs him in the middle of the night
Don't you worry don't you cry now you'll do just fine
Your mother and I love you
We think about you all the time
And he can see the train is leaving

[Repeat Chorus]

Now the old man sits and tells of days when time stood still
The hours always seem to fade but the memory never will
All the love that you gave me
All the dreams in the night
And I just want to thank you while the day's still light
But I can see the sun is setting

[Repeat Chorus]

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