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Music delivers the message of the season

Even though I spent several years working in retail and listening to incessant Muzak renditions of "Silver Bells" and "Jingle Bell Rock", I never have grown tired of the tunes that are a trademark of this season.

As children, my sisters and I used to play our collection of holiday LPs over and over again in those special weeks before Christmas. Spinning on our mammoth old stereo console were the singing cowboy Gene Autrey's "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", Evis Presley's "Blue Christmas" (with Sara and I swapping the "oo-wuw-hoo-hoo-wuw" part with the lead) and an amusing album of mariachi-flavored traditional tunes done South-of-the-Border style.

We also adored the deep, resonant tones of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing the wonderful old hymns like "We Three Kings", "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Joy to the World." His rendition of "Some Children See Him" still brings a tear to my eye every time I get to hear it. The old LP has long since disappeared and every year I search for a re-issue on DVD – no luck yet, but each year I hope and keep looking. For me, that sweet song epitomizes the true meaning of Christmas.

My sister Sara would put her musical skills to good use each year by playing popular holiday tunes on the piano. Later even I (She-who-hated-piano-practice) achieved fairly decent renditions of "Silent Night" and learned "The Little Drummer Boy" by heart. To this day I can still plunk out that ol' "pa-rum-pa-pum-pum" on the yellowed keys of the Wurlitzer.

Suitably, the very first song I ever sang as a duet was the Christmas lullaby "Away in A Manger" with my buddy Donna Rogers (Smith) for our church. Later we performed the lovely "Gentle Mary Laid her Child", still one of my favorites. How nice it was to see it included in that same church's Christmas cantata all these many years later…for me to sing with a smile as I remember.

Caroling is one of the greatest joys of the season. I myself prefer a cold, crisp moonlit evening, the better to don a warm and colorful Christmas outfit, along with good-spirited companions (who, preferably, can sing on key

but even if they can't you still have a blast).

Once when Benny and I were living in an apartment complex in Bellevue, Neb., a church group showed up to serenade us one frosty December evening. Actually, they arrived at our door prepared to sing to someone else who no longer lived at that address.

Surprise, surprise! Well, we certainly were entertained by the unexpected musical surprise and we all got a good laugh out of it.

Maybe all carolers should intentionally include at least one performance at the home of a stranger and spread a little extra goodwill.

So if you can't sing, hum a Christmas tune or simply pause to listen, really listen to the music of the season. It's good for what ails you.

This season, happy holidays to all, y'all.