Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Ralph Hunter Choir - Christmas Surprises From

"This is an album I downloaded from Ernie (Not Bert)'s blog last year..." "Here's an album that Ernie offered at his blog late last year..." "My friend Ernie had this album to share at his blog during the 2005 download season..."

Pick one of those and let's get going... This is a very interesting album because 1.) where it came from and 2.) I can't find anything online about the artist.

Lifted from the very blog entry via Ernie:

"The original release is seen above (at Ernie's blog - it might be above or just to the right for my blog), as credited to The Ralph Hunter Choir. The second time around, RCA decided that old Ralph wasn't drawing enough attention so they called it 'Living Voices Sing Christmas Music'. 


"And that release spawned a whole series of albums by any number of different groups as Living This or Living That. ... And, oddly enough, the record you see above (at Ernie's blog and, by now, my blog I'd wager) is an Australian pressing. It used to belong to a little girl who loved Rick Springfield by the name of Annette Haessher. 

"I only mention this because I had to spend several hours getting her name and love notes to Rick off of the cover via Photoshop. Thanks Annette, I didn't have anything better to do the week before Christmas, anyway!"

I didn't find much other than Ernie's link when I Googled "The Ralph Hunter Choir". Which is a pity because this is a pretty kickass Christmas album.

It starts off rather bouncy and upbeat (Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Parade Of The Wooden Soldiers, Jingle Bells). Then ol' Ralph slides into coast mode with some pretty, pretty versions nice and slow (Winter Wonderland, The Christmas Song, White Christmas). End of side one... already?

Side two is mostly traditional Christmas songs (Here We Come A-Wandering, Carol Medley, The First Noel) which begins to stale by the time we reach the standout track of the album: Indian Christmas Carol. This one came out of left field with soft ritual drumming and soft trumpet accents. Then the male members of the choir chant one of the most haunting Christmas songs I've heard in quite some time.

Not to be outdone is the following track: Latin Lullaby (Cancion de Cuna). From the first beats of bossa nova, you're hooked and it's a fantastic blend of music and harmony. The album ends with Silent Night (shouldn't all Christmas albums?); stoic, hushed, and reverent.

This one's getting some airplay on my Christmas boombox during the Christmas season. I'm sure Rick Springfield won't mind all the extra work you put into this one Ernie!

On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection...


Capt

11 comments:

Ernie said...

This was probably one of my favorite of all the albums I shared out last year. I was hooked from the very beginning when you hear the sound of the toy train running around the Christmas tree. (At least I hope that was this LP. My memory isn't as good as it used to be.) I've found a couple of other LPs by Ralph Hunter and his choir, so he's not a one-trick pony.

CaptainOT said...

Was this Ralph's only Christmas album or are there more? If he has more, sign me up!


Capt

Ernie said...

I'm not aware of any other Christmas. His 1959 LP of Western themes was nominated for a Grammy though as Best Folk Performance. They lost to The Kingston Trio. I think there was at least one other LP of Broadway tunes or something, too, but I'm fuzzy on the details. I know I have the western one around somewhere in a pile...

Merry said...

Many (very many) years ago I brought the Surprises from . . . Ralph Hunter Christmas album to school for use in a dance recital music selection process (after Mom told me not to). Short story - it was taken from my locker and I have been in a very big doghouse ever since, as it was the family favorite. How can I get a copy (any format)?

Thanks in advance,
Merry

Christmas Music Guru said...

Ralph Hunter had a previous Christmas album that he did with Grandma Moses in 1958. She told stories of Christmases past, and in between her stories, his choir would sing various Christmas carols. This album is really a novelty album, and I would not recommend it for regular playing. My copy sits in my archives. I actually only learned about the album from Louise Hunter, Mr. Hunters Widow, who I know personally. By the way, the toy train heard at the beginning of the album "Christmas Surprises," actually belonged to their son Chris. In fact all the toy's heard belonged to their two sons. It was after Mr. Hunter left RCA Records to return to teaching, that RCA reissued "Christmas Surprises" on its budget Camden label as "The Living Voices Sing Christmas Music."

CaptainOT said...

Christmas Music Guru - That is indeed a wealth of knowledge! Thanks for the info!


Capt

Anonymous said...

I found this death notice on Ralph Hunter from 2002. I didn't realize until reading this that he only recorded five albums with the Ralph Hunter Choir. Too bad, they were great.

Ralph Hunter, 81, a Choral Conductor and a former professor of music at Hunter College, died on June 3 in Grinnell, Iowa, where he lived. He was 81.

Known for his passionate conducting of polychoral and spatially stereophonic music, Mr. Hunter also worked in radio and television and recorded five albums with the Ralph Hunter Choir.

Anonymous said...

I had the 1962 version. My parents played it ragged. As a kid, I finished it off. It was the only Christmas record we HAD! I'd been meaning to look for this record for years and years. I can't believe I got it tonight thanks to you and Ernie (not Bert). Thank you!

CaptainOT said...

Anon 1:44 PM - Thanks for passing along the info on Ralph Hunter!

Anon - Glad to have helped point the way! Tell Ernie the Captain sent ya!


Capt

Ernie said...

Was just re-reading the comments, and saw that note about the other Ralph Hunter Christmas record with Grandma Moses. I've never seen it, but it appears we missed a share from last year. Maybe if we all go over there and ask nicely...

http://www.analogartsensemble.net/2006/12/christmas-with-grandma-moses.html

Anonymous said...

Ernie - can this be reposted? Looks like I was five years too late! :-).