T’is the season of happiness and goodwill. It is also the time for Christmas carols, old and new; when stirring notes and evergreen lyrics create the music for the festival season. MetroPlus asks some celebrities to choose their favourite Christmas carol. Tune in…
Singer and composer
My favourite Christmas carol is ‘O Holy Night…’ composed by Adolphe Adam. I heard it at a programme in Dubai when I was working there. It struck a chord with me then and there. As for my Christmas this year, unlike previous years, this time I am celebrating it with my family. I have been shuttling between Kochi and Thrissur. I chose not to take up any music assignment this year.
‘White Christmas’ is probably my favourite of the Christmas songs. It’s a song that’s so very nostalgic but one that is so filled with a lot of love. I’m not a Christian but I enjoy singing it during Christmas time, especially with my band. During the season we play a lot of Christmas numbers – various versions of songs such as ‘Silent Night’, ‘12 Christmas’ and so on, all of which have been passed on for generations. And that’s the beauty of these evergreen numbers, this wonderful connect with the past. This year I’ll be celebrating Christmas in Chennai and will be getting together with my band to belt out some numbers.
The carol ‘God’s rest ye merry gentlemen…’ has such a wonderfully different beat from the usual. It’s a favourite of mine that I used to sing from childhood onwards when I was part of my school’s choir and later during my years with the church choir. In fact, I will be singing it this Christmas, which I plan to spend with my family in Kannur. We have this lovely tradition every year, where after the cake cutting on Christmas eve, my family gathers to sing Christmas carols. My mother, bother, sister and I sing the vocals, while my father gives instrumental support. We sing all the popular songs ‘Silent Night’, ‘Hark now hear the angels sing’… and, without fail, the songs always fill us with joy.
It was a Christmas that made me a composer! It all started with a lie when I was all of nine years old! There were a group of boys elder to me whom I adored a lot. In order to impress them, I lied that I could play a harmonium. Since my father, A.M. Paul, and uncle A.M. Jose were well-known musicians, they believed it. That year, our church had no choir to perform during Christmas and so these boys sought permission to sing. They told the priest that I would play the harmonium. The news came as a shock to me. But, I didn’t want to get caught out. So, with the help of a friend, I managed to take my uncle’s harmonium and started playing it.
We were caught, but, to my surprise, he didn’t scold me. He even taught me a few notes. Once I started playing, I found that it was not easy at all. Within a few days, we had our first rehearsal and I had to come up with something new. And there was this Eureka moment, when I got a new tune, as I pressed the keys randomly.
I wrote lyrics as well, which was just a collection of words I found in some song books! You wouldn’t believe it – I came up with nine songs for the performance. But I never told the group that I wrote the lyrics… As for my favourite carol, it is ‘Rakkilikal kooki melle, moda gaanam uyarthunnu…’ I don’t know who wrote or composed it. But I have always loved it for its interesting composition.
It is time to ring in changes and, sure enough, my favourite carol is the Jim Reeves’ classic ‘Jingle Bells, jingle bells…’. It captures the merry mood of the festival so well.
This time around, my brother and sister and their families and my parents are coming to my home in Kochi to celebrate Christmas. Since I have just finished my movie Ezhu Sundara Rathrikal I am taking a break and so I am looking forward to celebrating the festival and the holidays.
Christmas is the time for get-togethers. Our home in Chennai is all decorated for the festival. We have a grand lunch or dinner with the entire family. When we were children, my mother [Prabha] used to pull out all the stops for Christmas. The entire home used to be clothed in Christmas colours. As a college student in the United States, I was in the choir and we used to go carolling. Singing in the choir is a great feeling and I really used to enjoy that. ‘Silent night…’ is my all-time favourite, not only to sing in a choir but even to sing on my own.
I am planning to bring out an album of Christmas songs in English, Malayalam and Tamil. Although I was unable to do it this time, maybe by next Christmas I will have an album ready for listeners. My dream is to have a really good choir to sing the songs.