Composers Gino Cruz and Jeffrey Arcilla got it right but only until recently. In their Philpop finalist song Apat Na Buwang Pasko, they comment on the Filipino’s custom of starting the Christmas Season on Sept. 1. And they were right then. But not anymore. Another composer and one whose association with Christmas is now legendary, has added two whole weeks to the Pinoy’s Christmas celebration.
Jose Mari Chan’s reason is very Christmasy. He was going to be honored with a Platinum Record Award for the sales of his album, Going Home To Christmas that was released two years ago. That is all very nice and although he must already have a room filled to crowding with Gold and Platinum and even Diamond Records, he felt very grateful. It is hard times for the music industry and to be told that people are actually buying your record means a lot to an artist.
But then, he started thinking, I was not the only one responsible for Going Home To Christmas. It is a collaboration. There are other people who helped make the album. Songwriters, lyricists, arrangers, musicians, engineers, other singers, etc. And he thought, they deserve Platinum Records, too. So in the middle of August, Jose Mari invited everybody to lunch and gave out Platinum Records to all of them.
Of course, he played songs from Going Home To Christmas during lunch and recounted stories behind particular cuts. It was all festive and heartwarming and made everybody think of Christmas although it was only August. And that is the reason why I am listening to Jose Mari’s Christmas songs a good two weeks before my usual target date for playing my favorite Holiday albums.
Not that I mind. I love Christmas and the celebration comes with the most beautiful songs. Besides as most of you certainly know by now, Jose Mari makes great Christmas music. Even that immortal Ray Conniff Christmas album ranks only second to Jose Mari’s Diamond selling several times over, Christmas In Our Hearts here in the Philippines.
This is also what makes a Platinum Record Award for Going Home To Christmas doubly fulfilling. The album was produced and released, encumbered with the phenomenal success of its predecessor, Christmas In Our Hearts. But it is bucking the odds. I am really glad to have the chance to listen to it early this year. The charms of Going Home can be better appreciated long before we get inundated with other Yuletide sounds.
The title cut says, “I’m going home to Christmas and to family/where the heart resides forevermore/I’m going home to Christmas and to family/where the lovelight hangs by the door.” The song obviously goes out to the overseas Filipino workers who make it a point to come home to their families during the Holidays.
But listen to the whole album and you will find that it refers to everybody. With his children Michael Philip, Jose Antonio, Liza and Franco in Christmas Moments, and with his grandchildren and a whole slew of friends joining him in song, Jose Mari has created a family-themed Christmas party album. This is the way Christmas is at its happiest, with those we love around us singing Christmas songs and there is a huge chance a number of them will be by Jose Mari Chan.
Going Home To Christmas, so easy on the ears, with its simple lilting chorus sets the tone for the gathering. A Christmas Song For You is just right if you want to promise true love forever during the festivities. Let Love Be The Gift, by Jose Mari with his daughter Liza Chan-Parpan and lyrics by Freddie Santos echo Christmas In Our Hearts and is a very good duet for the Christmas program.
The kids will love learning Song Of The Firefly which Jose Mari sings with his granddaughter Ramona Isabel. And who can resist a much-loved Doris Day standard like The Christmas Story sung by Teenee Chan or a joyous Pinoy Na Krismas with lyrics by Ogie Alcasid performed by The CompanY or the lovely ballad With The Eyes Of A Child, that says why Christmas renews us every year. It is the chance to look at the world once more through the eyes of a child.
Better yet, listen to the rest of the album. Going Home To Christmas is loaded with 22 songs and I am sure you will find lots to like among the cuts.