Monday, September 15, 2008

A Sense of Fullness: David Whitfield: "Santo Natale"

It is now, amazingly, almost 1955. Much has happened; in the UK, rationing has ended and the new monarch is settling into her job. In the US, McCarthyism is on the way out and the 'fun' part of the Fifties is about to begin (in the Happy Days sense of 'fun'). The passion for all things Italian has not abated, and this song is proof - even if he didn't have to tell you it meant 'Merry Christmas', "Santo Natale" - with it bells at beginning and end, the choir of female singers who all sound as if they are wearing red velvet ball gowns and hovering around the singer like cherubs - is full of Italian passion and goodwill and is a bear hug of a song. Whitfield's tenor is high and English (as tenors go) but still dramatic and maybe even a little too rich; but then he sounds distinctly like the kind of singer who would have a career no matter what - there are women (and men) who like a good strong voice with heartfelt sentiments and a kind of vocal handsomeness, and he has those to spare. (He actually sounds as if he has to stand away from the microphone as he is so loud, but I could be wrong.) He sings not just as if he wants you personally to have as many blessings and as few troubles as possible, but as if he almost has the supernatural ability to make that happen. It also conjures up visions of a young swain singing in the street up to his beloved who is leaning out the window – the stereotypical scene of courtship from Europe – though more common in Italy, I’d imagine, than in Whitfield’s hometown of Hull. Like the previous song, this is exactly the kind of song that would be termed ‘square’ by the hipsters of the day, and I am guessing the next time a Christmas song appears here, it will be quite different.

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