CRESTVIEW — Whether it’s “Joy to the World” or “Deck the Halls,” secular or spiritual, Bing Crosby or the Trans-Siberia Orchestra, ’tis the season for Christmas music — and everybody has a favorite.
A diverse group of north county residents shared their favorites. Most burst into song as he or she reminisced about what made the piece special.
The proprietor of Mack Brooks’ Barbershop — the longest continuously operating business on Main Street —said his favorite Christmas song is “Blue Christmas.”
“Back when I was a little boy, ‘Santy Claus is Coming to Town’ was good, too,” Brooks, also an artist and bluegrass fiddler, said.
However, “Blue Christmas,” which Elvis Presley made popular, has a deeper, more special meaning for the octogenarian.
“That ‘Blue Christmas,’ it was back during the war when that song was written and a lot of the boys had left home. A lot of us boys in Baker were pretty close. The first boy from Florida who was killed in the war was a Baker boy. He went down on the ‘Reuben James.’”
A German U-boat sank the destroyer Oct. 31, 1941 while on convoy escort duty in the Atlantic Ocean. This was shortly before the U.S. entry into World War II.
“When I hear that song, I think of them. They’re away from home. They were having a Christmas, but not like they had at home. It was a blue Christmas for those boys.”
Crose and her husband Jim have sung professionally, as well as in church and community choirs, so she can’t decide on a standout tune.
“I love Christmas songs and I have lots of favorites,” Crose said. “There is a contemporary song called ‘Bethlehem Morning,’ which is beautiful, but if you want a traditional song, ‘O Holy Night’ is another favorite. I’ve sung them both lots of times.
“‘Bethlehem Morning’ is a very different song. It’s contemporary. It’s a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful song. It’s got five key changes. My accompanists don’t like it.”
However, the song’s lyrics particularly speak to her.
“The message in a song is what matters to me, not as much the music. It’s got a beautiful message. It talks about why Jesus came. It talks about our redemption, that he came to redeem us from our sins. That’s really what Christmas is all about.
“‘For the child that was born there has come to set us free,’” Crose sang. “That line is so meaningful to me.”
At 97 years of age, Campbell remains active at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church, which she has attended since childhood.
She thought a moment before sharing her favorite carol.
“I believe that my favorite is ‘O Holy Night.’ I like it very much,” Campbell said. “‘Away in the Manger’ was the song I sang as a little girl.”
“‘O Holy Night,’ though, is a beautiful one. If it is well rendered — I’ve heard some people try to sing it and it didn’t turn out too well — it is pretty.”
Her thoughts led to a flood of other favorites from her hymnal.
“And I like ‘Angels from the Realms of Glory.’ I like all the Christmas songs. ‘It came Upon a Midnight Clear’ is a pretty song to me. And ‘Silent Night,’ too.
“One we sang in school when I was a little girl was, ‘Up on the housetop reindeer pause/Out jumped good old Santa Claus…’ I’m amazed I can remember that.”
Everett, an Iraq War veteran, remembers a wartime Christmas that included a song special to his family back in Crestview.
“Oh man, I remember there’s a Christmas song someone sent me in Iraq that was so great: ‘The Chipmunk Song.’
“‘Christmas, don’t be late,’” Everett started singing. “The girls and I would sing it to annoy their mother so it became one of our family favorites.
“When I was deployed to Iraq, the girls and their mother sent me a small Christmas tree at our forward post. We put it together in this little house in the middle of Iraq. All the guys used it to remember home. The girls sent me this ornament that talked and they recorded messages on it like, ‘Merry Christmas, Daddy.’
“Those small things meant a lot. All the guys there wanted to just tell my wife ‘thank you’ because it helped them a lot. Even though I was gone, we had a really good Christmas that year.
“But one of our presents was we got ambushed from all sides by al-Qaida on Christmas Day. That wasn’t so good.”
As a little girl growing up in Winter Park, a special hymn always stood out for Broadhead, who today is a Crestview resident active in the local garden club.
“The carol that has the most memories for me is, ‘On This Day Earth Shall Ring,’” said Broadhead, who has sung with the Northwest Florida Symphony Chorus. “When I was growing up, at our candlelight service every Christmas, that was the song we would end with.
“We would circle the church, and there was a big pipe organ playing big chord progressions before each verse. The church was always packed and it was a very special service. There were different instruments playing, and we had the wonderful candlelight.
“It was always a special time for me.”
Ryan, a Crestview High School senior, has appeared in many of the school drama program’s productions and plans to major in theatre in college.
“‘Auld Lang Syne’ has special meaning for me,” he said. “I guess it’s not really a Christmas song, but to me it goes with the holiday season.
“Recently, I did ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ I did it before at the Pensacola Little Theatre when I was little. It was really cold that year. That song really stuck in my mind as part of a holiday tradition.
“I think it really signifies turning a new leaf, setting new resolutions, starting a new year off. It’s like a fresh start on life.”
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.