Christmas songs have been done and done again, covering the holidays from all angles, even the melancholy. Songs like “Blue Christmas” and “Please Come Home for Christmas” express the lonelier side of the holidays, but are sad in their approach.
Paul Bellini, Rainbow Association of Canadian Artists (RACA) chairman and three-time Gemini Award winner (“This Hour Has 22 Minutes”) presents a gold record plaque to RACA president Ralph Hamelmann (right). Bellini and Hamelmann co-wrote the hit single “If You’re Not Here At Christmas” with Juno Award winner Gavin Bradley. — Photo by Glenn Bell
Newfoundland-born artist Ralph Hammelmann chose to take a more upbeat angle, and created a gold record.
Hammelmann, who lives in Toronto, is executive director of the Rainbow Association of Canadian Artists (RACA), a non-profit organization that celebrates diversity in music, and he’s the founder of Toronto’s Spectra Talent Contest. It’s a talent showcase that bills itself as the country’s most inclusive, and will appear as an Bell Media TV series in the Toronto area in 2014. Each year, the contest awards a recording to its winner, and this year, Hammelmann decided to do a group recording, pulling in alumni from previous years to share in the opportunity.
With Juno Award winner Gavin Bradley and Gemini Award winner Paul Bellini, Hammelmann wrote “If You’re Not Here at Christmas,” as a way, he says, to bridge some social gaps.
“Whether someone is Christian or not, I think Christmas has evolved beyond being a religious holiday and it’s more of a cultural thing,” he explains. “It’s really something that people in the western world acknowledge.”
The song, nostalgic but upbeat, was also inspired by Hamelmann’s personal circumstances. His mother still lives in this province, he says, and he can’t always get home
to spend Christmas with her. As well, his father diedin 2010, six weeks before the holidays.
“I used to meet people who disliked Christmas and I always thought it was kind of weird,” he says.
“That was the first time in my life I found myself really not looking forward to the holidays. It wasn’t that I don’t like Christmas, but when you’re grieving it gives it a different dimension. I wanted to write a song to address this, because it’s real. I wanted to do a song to comfort people and say there’s there memory of the person. That’s really what the song is; it’s a nostalgic set of memories to ease the person through those times and say, you know what?
“Christmas is going to come and go and you may as well make the best of it.”
“If You’re Not Here for Christmas” has reached No. 1 on Nielsen SoundScan’s Canadian Singles Chart, and has been certified gold. Originally intended as a fundraiser for RACA, the organization’s board of directors have agreed to give 75 per cent of the net proceeds to the Humanitarian Coalition’s Typhoon Haiayan 2013 fund. Three of the Spectra Singers were born in the Philippines, and two of them have been personally affected by typhoon Haiyan, Hamelmann says.
The music video for “If You’re Not Here at Christmas” can be viewed online by visiting www.spectrasingers.com, from where the single can also be purchased.