Tag Archives: Hanukkah

Light Up the Holidays with Rachel Cole

We are all about holiday music in our house. Beginning on Thanksgiving Day, we start listening exclusively to Christmas tunes; this lasts until New Years Day when we switch back to our regular playlists. There are two exceptions during this time: November 29 when we honor the life of the late great George Harrison by playing his entire catalogue and December 8, when we pay homage to the brilliance of John Lennon with his oeuvre.

Otherwise, we’re fa-la-la-la-la’ing and oh-by-gosh-by-golly’ing 24/7.

This is all festive and merry for a good, say, two or three weeks.

It’s usually around this time that I get a little weary of marshmallow worlds, reindeers running over grandmas and Christmas shoes. In other words, the same old, same old.

Not this year.

On heavy rotation is “Light Up the Holidays” by Rachel Cole, her fifth studio album that celebrates several of the light-filled holidays that so many of us enjoy during the cold, dark Winter months.

“We’re living in a very divisive time right now,” Rachel says, adding that her intent with this album was to bring people together through music. “The focus is on the celebrations that we all share during the Winter months, honoring and recognizing our similarities rather than our differences.”

(Full disclosure time: Rachel has been a personal friend of mine since our high school days. She and her husband Jason are exceptional people. They’re incredibly generous, kind, and are the kind of folks who just radiate love and goodness. They — along with their kids and Rachel’s parents — are some of my favorite people in the world. I love them. So, yeah, she’s a friend but one who just so happened to be nominated for “Best New Artist” at the New Music Weekly Awards in Hollywood, among her many other accomplishments.)

“Light Up the Holidays” is an upbeat, pop and jazz inspired collection of music that includes covers of standards such as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and  “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” alongside three of Rachel’s original compositions. “Savor the Joy”, “‘Tis the Season” and “Hanukkah is Here” are excellent additions to any holiday playlist.

Along with Rachel’s talented lead vocals (she also plays piano and strings on this album), “Light Up the Holidays” features several other accomplished musicians and singers. Among them are Peter Vantine (piano, keyboard, strings, arrangements), Peter Tentindo (guitar, vocals, arrangements), Lou Spagnola (bass), Tom Major (drums and percussion), Peter Levesque (saxophone), Jacyn Tremblay (backup vocals), Lily Horst (making her studio recording debut on this album with backup vocals), Rory Martinelli and Kenny Lewis (producer, sound engineer, mixing engineer, mastering). Rachel and her husband Jason Cole duet on “Let It Snow.”

Here’s how to get your own copy of “Light Up the Holidays”:

Entire album “Light Up the Holidays” is available now at:
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/2dxBrAPb0BQbhOEYigLbMG
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/…/album/light-up-the-ho…/1311089172

And here’s a YouTube clip of Rachel’s “Jingle Bells/Dreidle Song” mashup which is included on “Light Up the Holidays.”

“The holiday season is a time of gathering together with family and friends and bringing light into the darkness of December,” Rachel said. “It is my hope that this album and its music will be a light to you, the people you love, and to the world around us all days.” 


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Letting in the Light

Candles lit before a Valentine’s Day service  at our Unitarian Universalist congregation.
Somehow, I think it is fitting that World AIDS Day and the first night of Hanukkah are coinciding, as is the case on this first day of December.  As I write, the weather is fitting too: dark morning skies, tornado-like gusts of wind and pounding rain rattling the windowpanes and taking me by surprise, a day made for crawling back underneath the covers and hiding from the world.
We in my immediate small family of four mark World AIDS Day and Hanukkah quietly; if left to others in my circle, they’d both disappear (would that AIDS would) and fade quietly into the impending darkness.
Both have meanings for our family.  World AIDS Day brings a reminder of my beloved uncle lost to AIDS in 1996, a span of fourteen years that seems to be defined as both a chasm and a wink of an eye. He was a spark, a light in our family, his piano playing a source of never-ending music for us and the strangers who dined by it in the upstate New York restaurants in which he was part of the ambience.
So much surrounding AIDS is stigmatized and misunderstood, even still today with three decades of awareness and education notwithstanding. It is easy to let the stories and memories remain silent and buried, to keep names unmentioned, to remain in the darkness. It is the reason I am writing about him and his story in my novel in progress and the reason why I am often finding it so hard to do so.
In recent years,we’ve kept Hanukkah in the dark and let this holiday slip away too. We often need to be reminded of the date of the first night. Perhaps the menorah will be brought out for the first night, assuming we can remember where it is located and if I remembered to buy an extra box of candles last year. (Because I can never, ever find Hanukkah candles when I need them, like tonight.) If not, the red Yankee Candle from the powder room will do as a symbol.
The Husband was raised with a healthy dose of both Jewish and Catholic traditions, but identified primarily as being Jewish.  Before getting married and before the thought of Betty and Boo, we had the “what shall we do about the children?” conversations. We’ll celebrate both, we decided, introduce them to both traditions and both faiths.  In the midst of such, The Husband’s sister introduced us to Unitarian Universalism and for a time, it was like a light switched on in the darkness of our lives. This was the solution, this was the answer.  I still believe it is, although we have admittedly allowed it to slip away a bit, for reasons big and small, and have kept this in the darkness.
We’ll light the candles after a decidedly non-Hanukkah dinner of macaroni and cheese or spaghetti, because I didn’t have my act together to make a proper traditional meal. And then the candles and the lighting of them will be forgotten during a week of homework, of permission slips needing to be signed, of work obligations, of errands to be run, of appointments to be kept and cancelled.
It is easy to forget.  It is easy to remain silent.  It is much harder to embrace and to remember to let in the light.  It should be the other way around.
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