Dec 7, 2019
A few years back I watched the documentary Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas, which told the story of the Jewish songwriters who have written the soundtrack to Christmas celebrations for almost a century.
Some of the most famous songs of the Yuletide season, from “The Christmas Song” and “White Christmas” to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” were all composed at least partially by Jewish songwriters. Many were immigrants to America from Eastern Europe, and had made a new home here, These songs may have been their way of trying to fit in here in the New World, and a way to express the importance of the season.
Amidst the Christmas recordings released this year, a solo guitar album by Peter Curtis stands out. Not only for its musical excellence – and there is plenty of that here – but also for its thematic unity. All the songs were written or co-written by Jews.
Christmas with your Jewish Boyfriend is a baker’s dozen of tunes arranged and re-harmonized by Curtis to give them a new feel. There is also his original, the title track, written by the Jewish Curtis for his non-Jewish girlfriend. Curtis’ research in choosing songs was extensive, and he not only performs this material live, but gives lectures on the subject as well.
Curtis received his Bachelor of Music degree Magna Cum Laude from the Berklee College of Music, a Masters of Music degree from Yale University, and a Doctor of Music in Classical Guitar Performance and Literature with minor fields in Ethnomusicology and Music History from Indiana University. He has recorded with a quartet (Swing State) and been a sideman for the likes of Claudia Acuna, James Carter, Freddy Cole, Taj Mahal, and James Moody.
If you enjoy Christmas with your Jewish Boyfriend – and I believe you will – check out his postings on YouTube for an early taste of his next recording projects, a song for each month of the year.
Podcast 716 is my conversation with Peter as we dig in deep into the stories of the Jewish-American songwriters and their Christmas compositions. I promise you’ll learn more about “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” than you ever thought you would. Musical selections from Christmas with your Jewish Boyfriend include “The Christmas Song”, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, a unique “Silver Bells played on his “B-Bender” Telecaster, and “Santa Baby.”