Saturday, December 30, 2017

Christmas on New Media (My Christmas Music, Part 3)

I'm still enjoying my Christmas music this week; indeed I'll keep it up through the "Twelve Days" which bring us to the Epiphany, the celebration of the arrival of the "Magi" from "the East."

In this post I want to just indicate and introduce you to a few of the very talented and dedicated people who make music on YouTube. Here I am referring not to mainstream label artists who post their music (though it's great that good artists do so).

I am referring to (usually independent) artists who use YouTube as a "place" where they really "do" their music. This often includes taking advantage of the possibilities offered by an audiovisual medium, as you will see here. These artists each deserve their own post (and I intend to write more about them and others). Today, I am just going to offer a few Christmas songs.

I do want to emphasize that the artists here, and others like them, are not amateurs, though some of them started out that way, and grew over the past decade along with the huge development and unprecedented access to high quality audiovisual media. Many of them are still very young. These "jewels" are not always easy to find in the rough and chaotic world of YouTube, where anybody can post videos.

I have been paying close attention to this media platform for about seven years, but even though I keep my eyes and ears open for good music, there are many outstanding performers that I have not found, or that I know very little about. YouTube is a vast and ever-changing realm. Often the best we can hope to do is to find our own niche where there is music we enjoy, and then expand our horizons a bit by trying some new things.

Let me show you a few examples of some good YouTube music artists that I know, in the context of their Christmas music.

Tyler Ward. This talented young man has been a protagonist on YouTube for a long time. He does covers and original songs, and also tries to bring other YouTubers greater recognition. He coordinated a YouTube Christmas Show in 2014 with many other artists to raise money for charity. In this video, Tyler sings Silent Night in a subdued acoustic presentation of his "pop-country" style:

Cimorelli. Here are six girls who have been singing covers and also their own songs on YouTube for nine years. They are also a YouTube star story, who began in their living room and now have nearly four million subscribers from all over the world and over a billion views (that's not a typo; that's billion with a "B"). We will have to tell more of their story another time.

Oh, did I mention they are sisters? They're all sisters. Six sisters. Not sorority sisters or step-sisters or half-sisters. Full sisters, all from the same mother and father. Oh, and there are five brothers too. That's 11 kids in the Cimorelli family. (Well, some of them are grownups by now.)

They often do a very interesting pop a-cappella style, with the girls trading off different sections of the lead singing role. They are all fine singers and blend very well together.

"But wait," you say, "who the heck is this family with 11 kids?" It's a big wacky, ebullient, hilarious Catholic family! I'm sure some of you who are reading this blog know families like them. (Some of you are families like them!)

The Cimorelli sisters are an excellent and admirable group of kids and young people. Still—notwithstanding their serious demeanor in this recent, very lovely cover of Carol of the Bells—they are also a hoot! They are funny, full of laughter, and have a fascinating interpersonal dynamic. They are very hip with teenage girl stuff and definitely boy-crazy (though with clear boundaries, which they do not hide). They are also willing to talk about problems that kids go through, and speak about their own experiences, vulnerability, and the lessons they have learned.

But more about Cimorelli "next year." Listen to this beautiful rendition of Carol of the Bells:

Just to give you a sense of their funnier side, check out this cover too, of Santa Claus is Coming to Town:

Jonatan Narvaez with Veronica Sanfilippo. YouTube is really bringing together the international music scene, or rather, it allows local music scenes to remain local while also being connected with others all over the world. Singer, songwriter, musician, and producer Jonatan Narvaez of Buenos Aires, Argentina brings outstanding young talent from around the region to his YouTube channel, working with them and giving them a place to develop their singing and performance art and producing the highest quality music videos.

I will be writing more about Jonatan and this very special Hispanic musical community. Here we present an original Christmas song, Ha Traido la Esperanza, beautifully sung by the very talented young artist Veronica Sanfilippo:

Peter Hollens and Mike Tompkins. When it comes to the audiovisual art of being a one person a-cappella choir, Peter Hollens is the master; he is brilliant in so many ways. I don't have time to write much about him here, so I'll have to take up his phenomenal accomplishments at another time. Peter has built a solid following on YouTube and finances his unique music performances through Patreon, one of several crowdfunding platforms specially dedicated to building community between artists and their "fans"—the latter being in fact actively engaged in a creative collaboration. He also seeks to help other artists by working with them on his platform.

On this cover of the classic Little Drummer Boy, Peter Hollens joins forces with another a-cappella YouTube star. Mike Tompkins is a one person band, who specializes in vocalizing a large variety of rhythmic and instrumental sounds in addition to singing. Here are the two of them presenting a rousing and polished rendition of the rumpa-pum-pum: