Modern holiday songs are great, but nothing says “Christmastime” like a classic carol. UMW Philharmonic Orchestra Director Kevin Bartram will share his thoughts on some of the most famous yuletide compositions with audiences across the nation on the With Good Reason (WGR) radio show, beginning this Saturday, Dec. 22. The episode, Holiday Favorites and Memories, will air in Fredericksburg on Sunday, Dec. 23 at 2 p.m. on Radio IQ 88.3 Digital.
Joined by faculty members from other Virginia schools, Bartram waxes nostalgic about the power of Christmas carols to evoke the past, and explains that “certain something” singers like Judy Garland and Tony Bennett bring to seasonal classics.
Ahead of a clip from Bennett’s famous rendition of The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), Bartram recounts his sharing the stage with the legendary singer, calling Bennett’s December 2016 appearance with the UMW Philharmonic a highlight of his career. The Fredericksburg crowd’s uproarious reaction to the artist, then 90, was so enthusiastic, Bartram tells WGR host Elliot Majerczyk, he mistakenly thought the drummer had dropped his cymbals.
On the show, Bartram also discusses Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, written during a 1946 July heatwave. The song – famous for its sounds of clippety-clopping horse hooves – was the first instrumental piece to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
Of Judy Garland’s hit, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, from the 1944 MGM musical Meet Me in St. Louis, Bartram says, the original lyrics were so gloomy – the Smith family was preparing for a reluctant move from their home in St. Louis to New York – they had to be rewritten. Interesting, considering Garland’s own often melancholy mood, colored by her struggles with mental illness and substance abuse.
“They’re homesick. They’re very sad,” Bartram said of the onscreen family. “And then to introduce a Christmas song … to be performed by Judy Garland, who had notable issues herself. What a remarkable performance of a multi-layered song.”
Later in the show, in an encore segment, UMW Professor Gary Richards talks about Broadway musicals with Southern themes – from Show Boat and Porgy and Bess in the first half of the 20th century to Memphis, which debuted on Broadway in 2009. The productions, Richards argues, tend to relay a negative view of the South and ill represent today’s diversity. Professor of English and chair of the Department of English, Linguistics, and Communication, Richards is an expert on southern literature and culture, American fiction, contemporary drama, and sexuality studies.
With Good Reason broadcast times are posted at: http://www.withgoodreasonradio.org/when-to-listen/. For more information, and to access audio files of the full program and its companion news feature (posted the week of the show), visit the With Good Reason website at https://www.withgoodreasonradio.org.