It’s part of a fascinating series covering some very different pieces of music, and this episode looks at how perhaps the most complex and thought-provoking of all “Christmas” songs came into being, and what it means for people who have approached it from very different places.
It is no surprise to hear Bob Harris light up the discussion with his trademark insight, wisdom and humanist charm, and the story of how a woman came to find so much more than she expected through the song comes over like a Christmas fable itself.
And the man responsible for the tour-de-force lyric, Peter Sinfield, talks about some of the things he was seeking to achieve, and the complimentary and conflicting ideas that were flowing around his head at the time. It took him a few months to put it all together into a song, which still sounds like a remarkable achievement for a lyric that acts like a symposium on the symbolism and meanings of Christmas. Sinfield’s words encourage us to explore ideas of belief, control, innocence, commercialism, materialism, childhood, family, trust, disillusionment and hope. And they do all that while keeping us entertained and enthralled. Not bad going for a three and a half minute pop song!
In fact, the words are so good, it’s easy to forget just how strong the music is: the lively, crackling guitar parts, the serene orchestration and those delicious melodies, topped off by Prokofiev’s exquisite “Troika”.
For me, “I Believe in Father Christmas” does just about everything a song should do; it works on so many different levels, offering opportunities to examine ourselves, to address our myths and values, to enjoy an inspired cross-fertilisation of musical styles, or maybe just to jig up and down feeling nostalgic to an impossibly catchy little ditty.
If you’re a friend or music contact of mine (a flesh & blood person, ideally) and you’d like to hear my version of the track, drop me a message and I’ll forward the private link. In the meantime, a visit to BBC Sounds might just provide food for thought, like it did for me. And you can never listen to too many good melodies.
Listen to ‘The Christmas we get we deserve‘.