Today we have a bit of a combination holiday song for the Fest. It fits well into our category of good holidays you don't know, but has a twist. And so we end up with a totally unknown, yet hugely-well-known and wonderful. How can that be, you ask??! I'll post it here before, but will explain.
This is a song, "Pine Cones and Holly Berries," from the musical, Here's Love, by Meredith Willson, who of course wrote "The Music Man." The show is based on the classic film, Miracle on 34th Street. And though the musical wasn't terribly successful, it didn't flop and had a respectable run of 334 performances in 1964.
"Pine Cones and Holly Berries" is sung by Laurence Naismith who plays Kris Kringle. It's very charming and is make a lovely Christmas holiday song, though is unknown.
Now, as you may recall, Meredith Willson likes counterpoint. He used it a great deal, to much good effect in The Music Man, most notably with "Lida Rose" sung counter to "Will I Ever Tell You?", but also famously with "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a Little," sung in counterpoint with an already-existing song, "Goodnight, Ladies."
Well, he used the technique again in Here's Love. He created "Pine Cones and Holly Berries" to be sung counter to an already-existing, very famous Christmas song, written in 1951 -- one which (I think most people will be shocked to learn) he himself wrote. Since it was his own song, he was able to use it in the Broadway score. And when I say it's very famous and completely well-known -- trust me on this. I won't tell you want it is, though, so you can have the fun of discovering it when it comes in halfway through. And yes, famous as it is, it's written by, of all people, Meredith Willson, author of The Music Man.
The counterpoint, famous song is performed by Janis Paige and -- are you ready? -- Fred Gwynne! Not the sort of fellow you think of for Broadway musicals, but he's actually quite a good singer. Although he utterly hated being typecast for his most famous TV role, since it almost ruined his career (I worked with him on the movie, Pet Sematary, and we briefly talked about that), I feel compelled to identify him in this context for the sheer incongruity of it, as yes, 'Herman Munster,' whose TV series came along soon after this musical. (You have to listen closely to hear him among the two other voices, but if you focus, his counterpoint is quite clear and comes in at the 1:15 mark..)
By the way, since the counterpoint song is so famous (and again, it really is), I'm surprised that no one -- as far as I know -- has recorded this version with "Pine Cones and Holly Berries." They make a wonderful combination. For that matter, I'm surprised "Pine Cones and Holly Berries" has become a common holiday song, considering its pedigree.
So, here then is a lovely, sweet Christmas song you don't know, sung in counterpoint to an extrexemely famous one you do, both by Meredith Willson.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor