The Ghosts of Christmas Past
The Victorians had a tradition of gathering round to tell each other ghost stories and we've tried to capture that atmosphere using just voice and electric upright bass as our medium with which to commune with those Christmas spirits!
“Marley was dead, to begin with.”
This is the opening to my favorite Christmas Story, Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. When I was a child, the fact that it is a ghost story wasn’t immediately obvious to me. But I loved it. I had storybook and record of the tale, and I generally would listen to side one (the ones with all the scary bits in it) over and over instead of turning the record over for the happy ending. And when the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol started coming on television, I never missed it, looking forward to the fog, the lanterns, and the ghost hearse. Especially the ghost hearse. A Christmas Carol was scary, and not like a horror movie, and while young me didn’t quite understand the distinction, I knew I loved this story the most.
It is easy, therefore, to imagine my delight in finding out that a cultural tradition around Christmas involved families gathering on the 24th of December and telling ghost stories. The notion of passing Christmas Eve in sheer terror of the return of the dearly departed sounded...well, fun. And instantly brought me back to memories of cold winter evenings and the spectral visage of Jacob Marley.
So in the spirit of the Ghosts of Christmas past, we’re offering you ten tales for your musical enjoyment this season. There’s nary a reindeer or a kindly old elf to be found, but there are memories and echoes of the past abounding, both in the texts and textures of the music.
Musically, we challenged ourselves to write an entire work with only my double bass and Sarah’s voice. I’ve been fascinated with the notion of using delay and reverb (short for reverberation, meaning an audio effect that mimics physical space) to create musical ghosts, that is, music that plays itself and exists as its own shadow.
And with the dark nights of December upon us, it seemed we had the perfect opportunity to conjure up our ghosts. They are mostly traditional songs, but Sarah wrote her own melodies for three of them, and all of them have been manipulated to create our own spectral atmosphere.
So turn the lamps down, light a candle, and lock your doors. There will be time enough for the bright songs of the morning to bring comfort on Christmas Day. But on this dark eventide, the bumps in the night are not reindeer…