A Minor Key Christmas – Season’s Greetings From Fog Towers

Hello you. How you doing this festive season? Hope you’re all bearing up OK. It’s been a tough end to a tough year for so many, but hopefully the items below will warm your festive cockles with a modicum of holiday cheer. Starting with my latest report for Radio 4’s Today Programme on the subject of Chilly Gonzales and his magnificent new album A Very Chilly Christmas, in which the self-styled ‘showman in slippers’ sits down at the piano to walk us through his reinterpretations of festive favourites. The haunting version of ‘Silent Night’ is particularly sublime:

Finding appropriate music for the most unusual Christmas in living memory was always going to be a challenge, but a new album from the Grammy-award winning pianist and entertainer Chilly Gonzales just might provide the perfect soundtrack for this sombre season. A Very Chilly Christmas finds the composer and self-styled ‘showman in slippers’ presenting a reflective and intimate take on a mix of traditional carols and well-worn festive pop hits – or ‘From Wencelas to Wham’ as he puts it. With a little help from some special guests, these piano-lead interpretations breath surprising new life into old classics, creating the most timely accompaniment to a minor key Christmas…

It’s been a busy end to the year at the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project as we’ve been putting together our Christmas Audio Anthology, featuring seasonal gems from some of the collections we’ve been working with at London Metropolitan Archives, along with a collection of Christmas songs recorded by The Lookout Band, with vocals by the redoubtable soprano Catherine Bott, better known these days as a presenter on Classic FM. You’ll hear reminiscences of Christmases past, first encounters with snow, a ‘Jonkunnu’ song from Jamaica, a strudel-stealing dog and much more. These are always such fun to work on and invaluable in demonstrating the crucial work of this nationwide, project in preserving these voices for future generations. This is actually the second Anthology in the series after the inaugural edition from a few weeks back – I was supposed to feature that on these pages as well, but the last few months have rather run away with me – quelle surprise! I also wanted to share the image of this Christmas Cookie baked by my #UOSH teammate and fellow tape enthusiast Kate, which is still making me smile a whole week after its consumption. The level of detail is just astonishing – am I over-thinking this or are those are tiny icing spores of mould speckling the compacted tape? Either way, it tasted as good as it looked. Bravo, Kate!

I’ll be back next week to present my now-traditional end of year mixtape, which this time round has some decidedly heavy lifting to do – I’m going to attempt to convince the world that 2020 was actually a pretty fantastic year for music, even if most of it had to be enjoyed in bedrooms and on headphones. In the meantime here once again is the 2019 Mix in all its full three and a half hour glory. There’s two hundred and fourteen minutes just waiting for you to dive in – and not the slightest scrap of filler! Perfect for those new solitary Christmas walks so many of us are going to be embarking on this year!

For now may I wish you all the Merriest Christmas Possible and I do hope that you manage to find some good company and some good cheer in these turbulent times. Unless of course you’re Boris Johnson, in which case I hope you’re torn apart by wolves…

Author: Robin The Fog

Sound Artist, Radio Producer, DJ, founder and chief strategist of tape-loop proejct Howlround. Devout Catalyst.