1. "Simple Gifts" I love the original Shaker hymn by Joseph Beckett and I love the way the WVU marching band does it too. But I think my favorite is probably from cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the ethereal singer Alison Krauss.
2. "Fanfare For The Common Man" by Aaron Copland I don't even know how to describe how this song makes me feel. It's beyond description. You just have to hear it.
3. "Take Me Home, Country Roads" by Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, and John Denver It probably seems too stereotypical for a West Virginian to pick this, but most of us will tell you it's basically in our DNA. I chose this version as a cheat because it indirectly involves one of my favorite groups, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, who, interestingly enough, were being pitched the song when John Denver decided he just had to record it.
4. "American Pie" by Don McLean Such a powerful anthem about the era of music that may be the greatest of all time.
5. "The Prayer" by David Foster and Carole Bayer Sayger I'm not sure I've heard a version I didn't like, but the two best, as far as I'm concerned are close between Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli's version and Josh Groban and Charlotte Church's. I really like Josh Groban and Charlotte Church's voice is just heartbreakingly beautiful in this song. As an interesting aside, these four singers have sung this song in almost every combination possible. Both men have sung it with both women and Groban and Bocelli even sang it together.
6. "House at Pooh Corner" by Kenny Loggins I already put two versions of this song up for an earlier post, so I won't post it again. This song just speaks to my childhood so much.
7. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane I love this song mainly because of its fascinating history. If you don't know it, Google it sometime. It's actually two different songs, the original a sad one and the revised a happy one. When I was younger I liked the happy, but as I've gotten older, I've found more of an affinity for the more emotionally honest original. Besides, how can you go wrong with Judy Garland?
8. "The Christmas Song" by Mel Torme and Robert Wells This one's a nice counterpoint to the last song. I chose a version with the lesser known opening lines. This is by Mel Torme himself, aka the Velvet Fog.
9. "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables by Claude-Michel Schonberg I easily could have chosen every single song from this powerful show, but this one just barely beats out "A Little Fall of Rain." The version I've chosen is by the original (and best) English-language Jean Valjean, Colm Wilkinson. Another fun bit of trivia: Wilkinson, much too old to reprise his role for the movie version starring Hugh Jackman, played the role of the bishop who saves Valjean at the beginning of the story.
10. "Home" by Michael Buble, Amy S. Foster and Alan Chang This song is my favorite for a lot of reasons. It takes me back to my golden year as a teacher. It was the year I won the Milken and my last year with my best teacher friend Dan Daniel and a year where I had a group of students who were the greatest complete collection of people I've ever taught. They were just special in a lot of ways and I miss them. Well, that and Michael Buble is DA MAN! And by the way, no other version of this song is okay. Blake Shelton's version should be burned at the stake.