The Christmas Tree – A New Theme For Good Cheer
The tradition of the popular Christmas song can be traced back some five-hundred years ago, as a musical extension of prayer and ritual but since then it has undergone several transformations, the most enduring related to the post World War Two era when the beginnings of rock music ushered in a less traditional take on the subject.
Romantic themes were invariably adopted to broaden the scope of the Christmas song, but Christian based themes remain central to the concept, with all genres explored as a stylistic basis for these holiday season tunes. Peter Senior’s version, The Christmas Tree, is primarily a pop rock song, with overtones of the fifties and sixties in its instrumentation and performance but a lyric which seems to embody both the Christian ethos as well as the more Western-orientated preoccupations—good times, love, nostalgia.
Lyric aside, the track is an amalgamation of old school rock and roll with echoes of Motown and gospel (the rambunctious choir coming in towards the end of the song) and straight out show-tune pop. Peter’s sense of humour is intact though it doesn’t necessarily detract from the song, his voice going from baritone to a series of squealing intonations with ease, conviction and enough festive bravado to be persuasive.
The feel for the entire song is set off straight up by the four to the beat snare, the classic downbeat emphasis remaining relentless throughout. The band is introduced via a small build then a subtle chime sound accompanying a piano lays out the chorus. Melodically this is the mainspring of the song, the descending hook, the chant-like rhythmic arrangement of that hook make a perfect refrain to return to. The verses take a slightly different turn with the drums doubling the snare, and giving it a swing that helps create the dynamics needed for the recurring chorus.
It is just a verse chorus, verse chorus affair, with the light and shade responsibilities taken up by the band’s performance and the differentiating parts. However, the song does seem to get bigger and bigger as it progresses (that background choir helps too) and that’s due to the overall energy of the track, and most notably the vigour and spirit of Peter Senior’s vocal execution, entirely in keeping with the spirit of the subject.