On Frank Sinatra and the Rebekahs
Way back before the heathens were born, before I devoted all my time in winter to basketball, I used to play trumpet in an all-women’s Dixieland band. Six Basin Street was the name of the group, named, of course, after “Basin Street Blues” and originally having something to do with the number of players. By the time I joined, at the behest of Jan Klitch, the original trumpeter, the band personnel included–aside from us–a drummer, a saxophone player, a clarinetist, a vocalist, a trombonist, and a tuba player. We wore red and white striped vests and cool hats and played in incredibly odd places: parks, a celebration of the passage of women’s suffrage, grange halls, and one year, a Christmas party at the Odd Fellows Hall in Orrington.
We practiced diligently on Friday nights in a basement in Brewer, playing old standards like “Tiger Rag” (way too much fun with a slide trombone), “Tin Roof Blues,” “That’s A-Plenty,” and “Bill Bailey.” My all-time favorite was “St. James Infirmary” with its grief-stricken trumpet wailing about a dead guy…which, somehow, seemed a strange up-beat grieving, despite its minor chords. Not much in the repertoire for dancing (the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs did ask, once we got to playing), and even less for Christmas carols…but that didn’t stop us from accepting their invitation to the IOOF party. However, once we’d played through our entire list for them, those very nice men and women of a certain age invited us to share their dinner; afterwards, the Rebekahs all gave us small presents–Christmas tokens, if you will. Mine was a cassette tape of Frank Sinatra doing up Christmas in his own special way: a logical choice coming from those ladies, it seemed to me at the time.
From that point on, ol’ Frank became part of Christmas at the house. His is the music we listen to when we put up the tree: I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells! He hangs out with us for most of December, his voice full and deep. Even years later, his is the first CD the heathens look for when Christmas time rolls around. CD, you say? Oh, yes. The original Rebekahs cassette tape went on walkabout at the time of my divorce, but so ingrained was A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra by then that I was forced to hunt down another copy, and the CD just made better sense. So here we are now, some seventeen or eighteen years after the Odd Fellows Christmas party, and Frank has become the Energizer Bunny, after a fashion–he keeps going and going and going. This is truly the gift that keeps on giving. I’ve collected quite a few Christmas CDs since then, but Frank’s is my first, and my best. And, of course, all thanks to the Rebekahs from the Orrington IOOF.
Here’s what’s on the CD:
- “Jingle Bells” (James Pierpont) – 2:00
- “The Christmas Song” (Mel Tormé, Robert Wells) – 3:28
- “Mistletoe and Holly” (Hank Sanicola, Frank Sinatra, Doc Stanford) – 2:18
- “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, Buck Ram) – 3:11
- “The Christmas Waltz” (Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne) – 3:03
- “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane) – 3:29
- “The First Noel” (William B. Sandys) – 2:44
- “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” (Felix Mendelssohn, Charles Wesley) – 2:24
- “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (Lewis H. Redner, Phillip Brooks) – 2:06
- “Adeste Fideles” (“O, Come All Ye Faithful”) (John Francis Wade) – 2:34
- “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” (Edmund Sears, Richard Storrs Willis) – 2:51
- “Silent Night” (Franz Gruber, Josef Mohr) – 2:31
Compact disc reissue bonus tracks
…and here’s Frank for you: