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DUNCAN BARKES: Is it a safe time to talk about Christmas?

I think I can safely write the ‘C’ word without the editor’s inbox or postbag overflowing with complaints. We are now into November so muttering the word ‘Christmas’ is almost acceptable.

But as the supermarket shelves groan with festive treats and the tinsel twinkles in Poundland’s window, I find myself increasingly frustrated by the lack of decent Christmas songs.

Some shops already have their festive soundtrack playing. The usual uninspiring selection of songs accompany your trundle around the shops while you decide whether Uncle Jack would prefer a bottle of gin or the Kylie 2013 calendar (I dare say Uncle Jack would appreciate both in equal measure).

Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmas Time, Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody (not to be confused with Shakin’ Stevens and Merry Christmas Everyone) Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day – they all blast out of the PA system, which must be utter torture for even the most festive-loving of shop workers.

I once worked in a store where the Christmas music started in the third week of October. By the middle of December I was ready to bludgeon customers with a rolled up copy of the seasonal Radio Times.

And when I worked in music radio I used to get the same urge when Wham’s Last Christmas appeared on my playlist for the umpteenth time in a week.

Of course, there are exceptions. One of my few personal favourites is Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and featuring Kirsty MacColl. A bittersweet festive song, the opening bars still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up in anticipation of the raspy voice of Shane McGowan colliding with Kirsty’s luscious vocals.

My default Christmas playlist tends to feature classics of a very different nature. Frank Sinatra’s Christmas Album, Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas, Christmas with Peggy Lee and Dean Martin’s Christmas with Dino are life savers if you’re looking to escape the usual festive musical tat. Baby, It’s Cold Outside, Dino’s duet with Martha McBride, is especially evocative; easily conjuring an image of an open fire, a girl you are desperate to seduce and a couple of tumblers of scotch.

This week marks the release of a festive album by Tracey Thorn entitled Tinsel and Light. Her name might not be instantly recognisable, but she was one half of the band Everything But The Girl.

Tracey has a voice that could melt a heart of ice. I hope her new album will not only nestle beside my other seasonal favourites, but that it will also offer music fans a welcome alternative to the the likes of Cliff and his Mistletoe and Wine.

Concert for a great local cause

Talking of superb Christmas music, please buy a ticket for a special concert that promises to deliver more tidings of comfort and joy than Santa himself. A Very Christmassy Concert starts local girl Amy Fuller and fellow students from the Royal Welsh College of Music. Along with local school choirs from Parklands Primary and Bishop Luffa, plus special guest readers, the concerts (21 & 22 December at St Paul’s Church, Chichester) will raise funds for St Wilfrid’s Hospice. Just £10 for adults and £5 for children, Amy and her super-talented cast will knock your Christmas socks off with their extraordinarily beautiful singing. Tickets on 07722 824696.

 

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