THE BLOG

Something to Sing About

12/12/2013 16:34 GMT | Updated 11/02/2014 10:59 GMT

Whether you're Rocking Around the Christmas Tree or Harking the Herald Angels while they sing, you've got to admit that Christmas has its musical moments. Gone are the days when I would giggle with my friends in church as we joyfully sang how Herod "Slew the lit-tle Childer", yet it doesn't take much to bring the memory back. In fact I'm sniggering now.

And lo, early one frosty December Sunday some years ago, I was bringing a visitor to a church in central London. It was so early that not a creature was stirring, not even a - well, actually Starbucks was open - when behold, as if by magic a full brass band marched round the corner of H&M and my knees went weak right there. I could taste my childhood. And for the record, my childhood, at least at Christmas, tastes of Terry's Chocolate Orange.

Everyone must have their own musical hyperlink back to a childhood Christmas, good or bad. My friends from Asia describe how weird it now feels that as children it wasn't weird at all to be sitting in a sweaty church on the equator rhapsodising about 'snow on snow'. In a delicious twist of history, I have - via family Christmas Day discos at my parents' place - made sure that my young nephew's Christmas memories will now be triggered by his boyish attempts to rap Gangnam Style in phonetic Korean. Adorable.

My friend from Brazil tells me that much as he loves our traditional seasonal music, he feels it's always sad too. I think he has a point. Even in more recent Christmas songs there's a pang, isn't there? Note how it's always Cold Outside, the weather outside is frightful, and yet...if you really love me so... well then... the boys of the NYPD choir will still sing Galway Bay.

I think we love Christmas songs because they remind us there's always something to sing about. Which is no mean feat, right? The music we roll out at Christmas is full of this. Take George F Handel's Messiah: it begins with a voice crying in the wilderness and ends with the moment that the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised. Another excellent George wrote more recently about how last Christmas he gave you his heart - which rather too hastily you gave away. My point is, we sing both despite and actually because of wilderness, death and fickle lovers.

We also sing out of those difficulties, which is what happens all the time in music therapy. The first example I ever heard of Nordoff Robbins music therapy was of a young boy called Edward. By bold and brilliant musical accompaniment, one of the charity's founders, Paul Nordoff, was able to meet the painful cries of Edward and discover with him the point where his cries became singing. It stunned me, and reoriented me forever. Another excellent Ed talks about his own musical journey on a film recently made by Nordoff Robbins. Ed's transformation through music makes you stop and wonder at how music can even exist in such dark moments. And yet it does. It is literally wonder-full.

So please watch this short animated film about Ed. If you've seen it before, watch it again, and share it with someone who needs something to sing about.

Happy Christmas, folks.