Music Travel Monday
Music: From Texas for a Christmas Night with Tish Hinojosa
By Kerry Dexter
A blue norther sending a crisp edge of winter wind down the plains, a hint of country back roads, a taste of Mexico and the border lands, the wide starry skies of the west, a two step round the Christmas tree, and a scent of mesquite fires in the air: December in Texas weaves its own tapestry, as distinct as are the regions of the state, and as welcoming.
Tish Hinojosa knows about all that. She grew up in San Antonio as the daughter of parents who had come from Mexico, lived for many years in Austin herself, and has crisscrossed the state from dance halls to symphony halls as a touring musician. She holds all of that in her music on From Texas for a Christmas Night. There’s a waltz, several carols, look at the Christmas story in a different way, and a song for Hanukah in Spanish among the gifts she brings.
It is no easy thing to write a good original Christmas song. Think, for one thing, about all the well loved standards already out there. Hinojosa has done it, though, and more than once. Arbolito, in which she details her annual chats with her Christmas trees across the years, became a part of Christmas for people in Ausitn almost since she first released on an earlier (and now long unavailable) project nearly twenty Christmas seasons ago. It’s good to have the gently funny story about how time changes us and we change and stay the same over the years of holidays back on record again. English and Spanish language versions are equally popular with listeners, and both are on From Texas for a Christmas Night.
Building #9 is a look at how the Christmas story might have happened in a place and time closer to our own. Milagro is a lively anticipation and celebration of the joys of the season. The title track, From Texas on a Christmas Night, offers a quiet seasonal invitation that both evokes and recalls winter under lone star skies. Hanukia is a festive traditional song for Hanukah in Spanish, with Hinojosa’s daughter Nina and son Adam joning in on violin and trumpet, respectively.
A la Nanita Nana is a song which often accompanies Las Posadas, a tradition especially in Hispanic communities at the Christmas season in which the Holy Family’s travel from inn to inn seeking a place to stay is enacted. It is a meditative song that recalls both the Biblical journey and the southwestern traditions which have come from it.
Hinojosa brings her own touch to another traditional song, too. She frames Silent Night with an upbeat rhythm which is well in the spirit of the song, and sings verses in English, in Spanish, and in a nod to the song’s original language and Hinojosa’s current home base, in German.
Neither Tish Hinojosa nor I live in Austin these days, but there were a good few years there when it just wasn’t the Christmas season until I’d been to at least one of her holiday concerts and heard her sing Arbolito and Milagro and Building #9. Neither of us lives in the Boston area these days either, but by a twist of circumstance I was in Cambridge one day last December when she and long-time guitar player and major presence on From Texas for a Christmas Night , Marvin Dykhuis, were playing. For a while that night, Club Passim in Harvard Square turned into a little piece of Texas at Christmas.
Kerry Dexter is a regular contributor to A Traveler’s Library.
As a policy of A Traveler’s Library, we tell you about affiliate links. The links included here may make it possible for you to listen to excerpts of the music, and the ones to Amazon in this post are affiliate links. If you buy anything through the affiliate links in this post, you will be supporting the site Music Road. Thank you. The photo of Tish Hinojosa is by Kerry Dexter and is copyrighted. Thank you for respecting this.