When home for the holidays, fill it with the sounds of Christmas

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published December 7, 2016


METRO DETROIT — When it comes to decorating the Christmas tree, baking endless batches of cookies or wrapping presents, listening to the sounds of the season while getting ready for the holidays is a tradition for many people.

And for anyone throwing a festive party or hosting Christmas dinner, playing seasonal favorites of “Silver Bells,” “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Blue Christmas” in the background is sure to set the mood. 

Whether you’re “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” with Brenda Lee or having a “Silent Night” with Stevie Nicks, there seems to be more than enough Christmas music to fill a stocking from here to the North Pole.

Pop, rock, jazz, country and hip-hop artists seem to have new seasonal recordings every year. The classics — Perry Como, Andy Williams, Barbra Streisand and Bing Crosby — also get dusted off to bring in holiday cheer. Even rockers Twisted Sister have their own Christmas CD. Religious music, including renditions of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and “O Holy Night,” is another way to celebrate the season at home. 

Every year when the holidays arrive, Sara Rokicki puts on a favorite seasonal CD while decorating the Christmas tree with her young daughter. The music was a gift that the former Warren Woods Tower High School teacher received eight years ago from friends. She described the CD as “the perfect mix of religious and popular music in unique arrangements.”

Brad Bates, of Ferndale, has a family tradition with his younger sister, Laura. Each time either sibling hears Harry Connick Jr.’s version of “Sleigh Ride” during the holidays, they drop everything and call each other to spread some cheer.

For Warren resident Brian Pastoria, the Christmas season isn’t complete without bringing out the “Christmas in Detroit” three-disc package that features the talents of local Detroit artists — past and present — including the Blues Disciplines, Skeleton Crew, the Sun Messengers and the Howling Diablos.

The first CD was released in 1992, the second in 1994 and the third in 2009. Pastoria, his brother Mark Pastoria, Bill Evo and Jimmy Romeo were the executive producers. The music was recorded at Harmonie Park in Detroit and can be heard when logging on to www.reverbnation.com/christmasindetroit.

“We wanted the best people we thought would be good to do a cool cover song or write their own song. When I listen to these songs all these years later, they stand the test of time,” said Pastoria, who many will remember from his days drumming for rock band Adrenalin in the 1980s. “When friends come over, we’ll put the music on. It’s songs people never heard before. There are a lot of songs with a lot of meaning on here.”

Over at Tom Torrento’s house, there is always music on, which is fitting since he is the Van Dyke Public Schools secondary schools band teacher. When Thanksgiving rolls around, Torrento starts putting on Christmas music at home for his wife and two young children.

“My kids are currently obsessed with Pentatonix and Michael Bublé ‘Christmas,’” Torrento said. “That’s the go-to for them. The kids start getting excited the minute we start playing the music. We go about our day (while) the kids are dancing.”

Torrento also plays the staples this time of year, including holiday music from Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.

“Any of those crooner-style singers, you can’t find anything like that anymore,” Torrento said. 

Local musician Dana Forrester, bassist for Dead in 5, likes to keep the amps on 10 at home when it comes to holiday music. A favorite for the family is “Dig That Crazy Christmas,” by the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

“The whole CD rocks, but not too hard to scare the family,” Forrester said in an email. 

Another favorite compilation of Forrester’s is the 2008 release “A Blackheart Christmas.” That album includes various artists, including Joan Jett and the Blackhearts doing “Little Drummer Boy” and “Silent Night,” and The Dollyrots kicking it up with “Santa Baby.”