There is one Christmas song probably more famous than the rest – one that has certainly out-sold all others worldwide. It is Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” and it appeared as the pivotal tune in not one, but two festive musicals. Here we have a collection of movie music attached to the season, by name or deed, but not all of it comes from the musical genre.
“White Christmas (Original Soundtrack)”
Irving Berlin’s songs have never sounded so good as when delivered by Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen in this 1954 release to accompany the hit movie musical. “Love You Didn’t Do Right By Me” is a Clooney classic, while Crosby delights us with the title song on two occasions to top and tail the piece. There is “Snow”, “Blue Skies” and “Sisters” – not to forget “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sleep”. Everyone a gem.
“Home Alone II: Lost in New York (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)”
John Williams wrote the original music for the soundtrack to this 1992 Macaulay Culkin led American comedy, which includes “Christmas at Carnegie Hall” and “Christmas Star”. With contributions from Johnny Mathis, Bette Midler and Darlene Love, this becomes a welcome addition to any Christmas music collection.
“Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)”
Ryuichi Sakamoto won the 1983 BAFTA Award for Best Film Music for this soundtrack. All but one of the 19 compositions were created by the Japanese musician and actor, who also starred in the film. Lyrics on “Forbidden Colours” were written and sung by David Sylvian. The Japanese prisoner of war film and accompanying soundtrack should not be mistaken for holiday fayre. But with “Christmas” in the title a few people might be tempted to explore the subject matter – only to realise there’s no Yuletide joy to be found. We are here to prevent the confusion, while at the same time urging you to download the “Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence” track anyway. It’s beautiful.
“The Snowman Soundtrack”
Raymond Briggs created “The Snowman” in book form and then came the 1982 film. There was no dialogue in either. Music was thus the driving force of the animation about a young boy whose snowy creation magically comes to life and takes him on a fantastical journey. Fail with the score and the film would surely flop. Howard Blake’s musical magic ensured this was not the case and we are able to embrace a national treasure of a film and score. Famous song “Walking in the Air” is performed in the film by chorister Peter Auty and not Aled Jones. Welsh chorister Jones reached number five in the UK charts with his version of the song, released three years after the film debuted. The grown up Aled recorded a duet of this song with his younger self for a 2007 album (and again in 2016). Auty was not credited on the original version of “The Snowman” – but received his due on the 20th anniversary release. Blake said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph in 2012: “I wrote ‘The Snowman’ score at a time of terrible turmoil, but the song is about opportunities, if you can stop and take them. I’d always wanted to write a symphony with film – and that’s exactly what ‘The Snowman’ is.”
“Meet Me in St. Louis: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”
Judy Garland sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on this 1944 soundtrack to a film that follows the lives of an American family in St. Louis around the turn of the 20th century. Writing duo Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane are also responsible for such delights as “The Trolley Song” and “The Boy Next Door” – but it’s the Christmas track that steals the movie. In his autobiography, Blane (1914-1995) contended that he alone wrote all the lyrics and music to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – and indeed all the songs in this movie – saying a lack of business savvy had allowed him to give Martin (1914-2011) equal screen credit and royalties.
“Holiday Inn (Original Soundtrack)”
“White Christmas” was one of 12 songs written by Irving Berlin for this 1942 film in which Bing Crosby stars alongside Fred Astaire. Indeed, the Berlin classic enjoys two airings in the movie. Crosby plays an innkeeper who only opens for business on holidays. The soundtrack thus includes such songs as “Easter Parade” and a Valentine’s Day rendition of “Be Careful, It’s My Heart”. In 1943, “White Christmas” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
“Fred Claus (Music From the Motion Picture)”
Vince Vaughn stars in this 2007 American comedy, which benefitted hugely from its full-on Christmas soundtrack. There are 13 festive songs in all including “Santa Claus is Coming To Town” by The Jackson 5, “Sleigh Ride” by The Ronettes, “Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)” by Doris Day, “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses and the hauntingly beautiful “Silent Night” by Sinead O’Connor – the crucial track at movie’s end.
“The Muppet Christmas Carol (Original Soundtrack)”
Paul Williams composed 11 songs and a charming score for this 1992 Muppets movie marvel, which stars Michael Caine as Scrooge alongside Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit. The pick of the festive bunch is “It Feels Like Christmas” – sung by the jolly Ghost of Christmas Present and cast. “One More Sleep ‘til Christmas” is a winner, “Marley & Marley” is witty and clever and “Thankful Heart” rounds matters off rather sweetly.
“The Polar Express: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”
Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri wrote the song “Believe” for this 2004 animated movie and it was nominated for an Academy Award. Josh Groban delivers the song in style. Although it didn’t get the Oscar nod, it did win a 2006 Grammy Award. Actor Tom Hanks stars in the film – and sings on the album, including the title track. There are also classics such as “Winter Wonderland” from The Andrews Sisters, “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” by Frank Sinatra and “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby.
“Elf (Music from the Motion Picture)”
There is a wonderful retro feel to the soundtrack to Will Ferrell’s 2003 comedy courtesy of marvellous selections from director Jon Favreau. The deep, rich tones of Leon Redbone appear on three tracks, including the fantastic duet with actress Zooey Deschanel on “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. We also enjoy Ella Fitzgerald’s “Sleigh Ride”, Louis Prima’s “Pennies From Heaven”, Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” and Brian Setzer’s reworking of the “Nutcracker Suite”.
Other Music to Consider from this Genre:
“God Bless Us Everyone” – Andrea Bocelli (from “Disney’s A Christmas Carol”)
“Thank You Very Much” – James Head (from “Scrooge” with the original London stage cast)
“Walking in the Air” – Aled Jones (treble & adult baritone combination, both sung by Jones, from his 2007 album “You Raise Me Up – The Best of Aled Jones”. Originally from “The Snowman”)
“We Need a Little Christmas” – Angela Lansbury (from “Mame”)
“Merry Christmas” – Judy Garland (from “In the Good Old Summertime”)