Merry Christmas to our listeners around the world. While Mark convalesces from his current health problems, we close out this Christmas Day with a tip of the hat to the unquestioned champ of all American seasonal songs. For this show, he's joined by Mary Ellin Barrett, who left us earlier this year at what one would normally regard as the grand old age of 95, were it not that she fell a few years short of her longer-lived father, Irving Berlin.
Mary Ellin wrote a trio of fine novels and a wonderful memoir of her father, Irving Berlin, that is one of the very few books in this area worth reading from start to finish. She also took part in a very memorable Steyn Christmas show a few years back. So, to mark her passing, we're reprising a special Song of the Week audio edition that includes rare material from the Steyn archive and a unique live performance of "White Christmas".
On this show, Mark visits Mary Ellin's home to learn more about the man who gave us "God Bless America", "Blue Skies", "Easter Parade" and many more. (That's Mary Ellin with her father at top right.) They gather round Irving Berlin's old piano, the one with the special lever that enabled him to change key while still playing in F sharp, and Mary Ellin recalls childhood Christmases in the Berlin household and the mistake her mother found in the verse of "White Christmas". We also hear about the tragic events of Christmas Day 1928 and the long shadow they cast over the Berlin family. And we'll hear how Irving Berlin's great song sounds on his very own keyboard.
All that plus vintage Bing, a wartime warbling by the composer himself, other Berlin songs including the heart-rending "When I Lost You" - and a special performance by Monique Fauteux, one of the great treasures of Québec music.
To listen to this Song of the Week audio edition, simply click the link above. As mentioned above, Mark highly recommends Mary Ellin's 1994 book on her father, Irving Berlin: A Daughter's Memoir. We think you'll get a great sense of Mary Ellin's personality in this show.
For Yuletide music of a different kind, there is the 2022 edition of Steyn's annual Christmas Lessons and Carols.