Love Christmas songs? Locals share their favorites.

Merry-making melodies

Santa has his favorite; Ebenezer Scrooge does, too.

Just ask Robbie Wilson if there’s any doubt.

Wilson is an actor who has played both characters in past Baton Rouge area theatrical productions and has become well versed with their personalities.

So, he, more than anyone, would know Santa Claus’ favorite Christmas song. Scrooge’s, too.

“Well, first off, I’ll tell you the song Santa doesn’t like, and it’s ‘Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,’” Wilson says. “See, that’s one of those stories that get blown out of proportion. Santa is actually a good driver, and Grandma is a little slow. She stepped out in the road, and before she could pull her foot back, Santa ran over her toe. The story just blew up from there.”

And Santa’s favorite Christmas song?

“Well, he loves ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town,’” Wilson says. “He loves the idea of Christmas morning and setting the toys under the tree for the children.”

But Scrooge is a different story, and not because of the reason many people may think.

“Now, a lot of people would naturally think a song like, ‘I’m Getting Nuttin’ for Christmas,’ when they think about Scrooge, but that’s not the case at all,” Wilson says. “It’s so surreal, because most people are thinking about how Scrooge is at the beginning of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ when it’s the end of the story that has so much meaning.”

Scrooge transforms from an uncaring, miserly man into someone who embraces his fellow man after visits from three spirits on Christmas Eve.

“So, the song for him would be ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,’” Wilson says. “Think of words in the first and last verses of this song: ‘Remember, Christ, our Savior, Was born on Christmas Day; To save us all from Satan’s power, When we were gone astray’ and ‘And with true love and brotherhood, Each other now embrace.’ That’s Scrooge at the end of the story. He’d gone astray, and now he embraces his fellow man.”

Now, when Wilson isn’t in character, he, too, has a favorite Christmas song.

“I love Nat King Cole’s version of ‘A Christmas Song,’ and I like ‘Silver Bells,’” he says. “Both capture the spirit of Christmas.”

Scrooge and Santa aside, Wilson is one of several Baton Rouge area personalities who are sharing their favorite Christmas songs this season.

Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez’s favorite is “Silent Night.”

“It really depicts what the season is all about and what we need to remember more than anything else,” he says. “I remember as a child, I wanted to hear that song as many times as I could.”

Leanne Clement’s favorite takes a different perspective. Clement is executive director of Opera Louisiane.

“For me, it’s ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas,’” she says. “I feel that I’m always far away from my family in Virginia, and my husband and I either go there for Thanksgiving or Christmas every year. This year we went for Thanksgiving.”

Next year, she and her husband will be parents to their first child.

“So, the three of us will be traveling to Virginia,” Clement says. “But I do always feel at home either in Virginia or Louisiana, because if I’m not with my family, I’m with my husband’s family here. And when I’m with family, I’m at home.”

Todd Henry, executive director of Playmakers of Rouge, also claims “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” as his favorite Christmas song.

“I lived in Los Angeles after graduating LSU, and I used to drive from L.A. to Baton Rouge each Christmas,” he says. “When I’d reach San Antonio, I’d start listening to Christmas tunes on the radio, and that one would always come on. And I knew I would be home for Christmas.”

The song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” has its own story to tell. Kim Gannon wrote the lyrics and Walter Kent the music to this song made popular by Bing Crosby in 1943. Buck Ram, who penned the original poem, later was added as a co-writer. The song tells a story from a World War II soldier’s point of view. He is overseas at Christmastime and is writing a letter to his family.

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” became the most requested song at Christmas USO shows that year. And as demonstrated by Clement and Henry, it still has meaning for modern Americans.

Just as “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” has special meaning to Southern University’s Director of Bands Lawrence Jackson.

The song was written in 1963 by Edward Pola and George Wyle, and Jackson schedules it each year on the Southern University Wind Ensemble’s Christmas program.

“I love this song, because I love the season,” Jackson says. “This is the celebration of the birth of our lord and savior Jesus Christ, and there is a yuletide spirit at this time of year. This is the time of year where everyone thinks more about giving than getting.”

And for Jackson, the song also expresses his feelings about family gatherings.

“I get excited because the family gets together,” he says. “It’s a time for us to reminisce about the past year and our ups and downs and to look forward to the next. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.”

As for David Torns, associated director of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, his selection isn’t on the popular music lists.

“It’s a song called, ‘Still, Still, Still,’” Torns says. “We performed it in this year’s Symphony Brass and Percussion Christmas program, and I love it because it reminds me of what Christmas Eve was like when Baby Jesus was born.”

“Still, Still, Still” is an Austrian Christmas carol. It is classified as a folk song, its author unknown.

Next up is New Orleans actress and Gonzales native Shanna Forrestall, whose favorite is “Please Come Home for Christmas,” by blues musician Charles Brown, who first released it in 1960.

“This song always reminds me of my grandparents, who have always been the core of our family,” she says. “And it brings back fun memories of the Christmas Eves we spent at their house celebrating with all of my crazy cousins. I lived in Canada for a few years, and it was the only time in my entire life I didn’t make it to their house for Christmas Eve gumbo. This song made me long for the traditions that had become precious.”

WBRZ news anchor Sylvia Weatherspoon’s favorite is the Carpenters’ 1970 release, “Merry Christmas Darling.”

“I love ‘Merry Christmas Darling’ by the Carpenters, just because I think it’s so romantic and I always like to pretend that I’m one of the background singers or something,” she says. “And I always harmonize the background part. That’s a song I grew up with as a little kid, and I’ve loved, loved, loved it.”

According to Songfacts.com, this song was written in 1946 by Frank Pooler, choir director at the California State University, Long Beach. “Karen and Richard Carpenter were both part of the choir,” the website states. “In 1966, at Pooler’s request, Richard composed the music for this ballad.”

But Witherspoon doesn’t stop there.

“I love ‘Carol of the Bells,’ because when I was in middle and high school I sang in the choir, and that was one of the songs that we sang,” she says. “I sang soprano, and I loved the harmonizing again with that. I probably have about 50 Christmas CDs, and every one is required to have ‘Carol of the Bells’ on it.”

As for Greg Williams Jr., his favorite is Stevie Wonder’s “What Christmas Means to Me.” Williams is the founder and artistic director of New Venture Theatre.

“There are so many slow Christmas ballads, but this one is up tempo,” Williams says. “And it reminds me of what Christmas is all about while I’m dancing at the same time.”

The song was written by Anna Gordy Gaye, George “Horgay” Gordy and Allen Story, and Wonder recorded it in 1967.

Finally, Roy King, LSU’s director of athletic bands, which includes the Tiger Marching Band, weighs in with his favorite Christmas song, the Rev. John Henry Hopkins’ 1857 carol, “We Three Kings.”

And the reason? Well, look no further than his family.

“(Wife) Monya King, (daughter) Olivia King and Roy King,” he says. “What other song could beat that?”