Cheesins Greetings, Happy Hollandaise and To All A Gouda Night!
Cheesins Greetings (1994), Happy Hollandaise! (1995) and ... And To All A Gouda Night (1996) are a set of home-produced Christmas music collections intended as musical gifts for family and friends.
Listen to all the songs as a playlist on Soundcloud (new window), or scroll down to explore individual selections.
This collection of music is my greatest achievement to date in terms of producing a body of work from conception to completion. It represents hundreds of hours arranging, performing, recording and mixing the music, with additional time spent designing and producing the artwork and packaging. Critically, I don't suppose the music is of any real merit, but the experience gave me a greater respect for people who have published books, produced films, etc. So much work! I began the project twenty years ago, in 1994. To mark the anniversary, I've decided to document and publish the work online.
The initial idea was to showcase my musicianship through multi-track recording. A secondary goal was to learn basic recording techniques with analog equipment. Further, the project gave me an "excuse" for playing the different instruments in my collection, and served as a focus for my interest in composition and arranging. At the time (1994, age 29) I had been out of music school for a few years and was fully immersed in a career teaching public school orchestra and performing on the side as a freelance bassist.
The word cheese as it relates to music was made significant for me as an undergraduate when I played bass in the UTA Jazz Orchestra. Our two drummers riffed about cheese/music all the time and for whatever reason I thought it was hilarious.
Rules of Arrangement
The melody should be intact and recognizable. Everything else was fair game. I was inspired by The Residents' The King and Eye, a collection of Elvis Presley songs arranged in a dark, gothic style.
Process and Equipment
I owned two four-track 1/4" open reel tape decks, a Sony TC series which was limited by having to record two channels simultaneously, and a Tascam 34. The former I got in a trade with the band director at my school for my old Hondo electric bass. The latter I obtained from the sound guy at an outdoor theater company after they switched to DAT equipment. I had an 8 channel Tascam mixer and two microphones, a Sure-57 and a Sure Beta Green. Years later, my friend Matt Crawford digitized and remastered the content. Thank you, Matt--you made this all possible!
Many of my arrangements are intentionally unconventional, reflecting my sense of humor and worldview. As a musician, the most significant and pervasive element of Christmas is the music. That's what I'm celebrating here--I am not a soldier defending December 25th in the War on Christmas. I respect those who choose to believe in the Christian mythos and those who do not. Regardless, I love the music. It's so cheesy!
Click on a song title to learn more about individual selections.
Cheesins Greetings (1994)
We Wish You A Merry Christmas
Cheesins Greetings was the first of what would become a three-part series. Many of the arrangements feature authentic* Latin percussion rhythms. At that time in my life I felt a pressing need to atone for two previous sins relating to Latin percussion. One was that I received a D in percussion methods (UTA 1986), the only D I ever made in college. The professor was kind of a jerk. The other offense was when forsook the salsa band in Dallas I was playing bass for so I could take a better paying job with the Wichita Falls Symphony (1989).
*by authentic I mean rhythms I found published in a book. This was many years before I began my study of musicology, before I became skeptical of everything that's ever been written about music.
Happy Hollandaise! (1995)
Happy Holliday III
The First Noel
Happy Holiday IV
Happy Hollandaise! was the follow-up to Cheesins Greetings. It features four (actually five) instances of the song "Happy Holiday" by Irving Berlin. In 4th grade on the last day before Christmas break (1975) my teacher, Jill Davidson, put on a Christmas LP featuring an assortment of commercially produced recordings for background music while we glued stuff onto construction paper. She put the record player on manual repeat and I don't remember her flipping the record over, so the one side played again and again, and "Happy Holiday" was either the first or last cut. I had never heard it before, and so it struck me as very odd, like "how is this a Christmas song?" The oddness comes up even now whenever I hear the song. So I arranged several variations to feature in this collection.
...And To All A Gouda Night (1996)
Here Comes Santa Clause
Holly Jolly Christmas
...And To All A Gouda Night became the final Christmas tape I would make. I didn't finish it on time, so I mailed these out two months after Christmas. The mid-90s was perhaps the most productive time in my life. When Steff and I left The Heights and moved to Oak Forest (Houston), nothing was ever the same. In my mind, this collection signifies the end of that era.
Ding Dong Merrily (1996)
Let It Snow! (2013)
Arranging Christmas music has its benefits--people are more likely to listen to music when there's an occaision for it. Over the years I've sketched arrangements of other tunes. In 2013 I produced two of them. I'll do more in the future as the spirit moves me.