A Music Box Christmas

Rita Ford

Columbia Records, 1990


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


For anyone who has memories of Christmas as a child, there more than likely is one album or song that captures the mood or the memories more than anything. In my case, that album was a collection of songs performed not on the most modern equipment that could be found in the mid-'70s (when I was a young child), but on music boxes dating back to the 19th Century.

A Music Box Christmas featured selections as heard on antique music boxes from the collection of Rita Ford. (Side note: I finally used the Internet to locate her shop in New York, with the hopes of calling her and thanking her for creating an album that has had such lasting memories. To my disappointment, I was informed she died a few years ago - though I'd like to thank whoever took my call at the shop for not treating me as some crank caller.)

Now, I know that many people hear the words "music boxes" and think of the small clank boxes that you can find in jewelry boxes or children's toys. No, these are much more elaborate machines - machines that were meant to recreate the richness of an orchestra in one's living room during the Victorian Era. Long before the advent of the radio or the record player, the music box was a form of entertainment - and a beautiful one it was.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

All you need as proof is the beauty of the first song, "Silent Night, Holy Night". The richness of the music box (there are several different boxes featured on this disc) just might throw you for a loop in the beginning, but you'll soon find yourself overcome by the charms of this ornate device. Songs like "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "Ave Maria" almost make you wonder why the music box did not remain a popular form of entertainment.

Because some of these boxes are over 100 years old, some of the Christmas carols that are featured on A Music Box Christmas will probably not be familiar to you. But this does not take away any of the beauty of the songs or the richness of the tones of these devices. (Sometimes, it almost sounds like these songs were recorded in Ford's shop; more than once, I swore I heard a door slamming.)

I have mixed feelings about A Music Box Christmas these days. On the plus side, I am thrilled that Columbia Records has not shoved this album in the vaults to be forgotten about; I almost lost my teeth the day I saw this one on CD. They obviously know that there's magic in them thar boxes, and they have done a great job preserving this now three decade old album.

But the negative of it is that many people who never heard the original album might not be willing to give such an album the time of day in 1998. That's an unfortunate thing, because the magic of hearing the richness of such tracks like "Spin, Spin", "O Holy Night" and "Jingle Bells" still sends chills up my spine - and I think I've heard this album over 200 times over the past two decades.

A Music Box Christmas always seems to transport me back to 1975, and I can still see my mom putting up the family's Christmas tree (with the artificial pine scent), and me running around the living room, excited that Christmas was coming. This is an album that is value-priced these days, and is worth the few dollars it costs to hear how magical a Victorian Christmas must have been.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.