You may not know Katherine, but she’s definitely made an impression on you in one way or another. She was an American teacher at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, though she was originally from Missouri. It was easy career path choice for her for two reasons. First, she loved writing music and playing piano. She wrote her first musical composition at the age of 15, “Shadow March.” Second, she was super good at it! Originally a student at Wellesley, upon graduation Katherine Kennicott Davis was immediately hired by the school as an assistant in their music department. In no time she was a full-time teacher who continued writing, playing, and climbing up the ladder of influence in the world of academic music, receiving an honourary doctorate from Stetson College in Florida.
In 1980 she died at the age of 87, having written approximately 600 compositions. She left all the proceeds and royalties from all of her music to the music department of Wellesley College.
Perhaps her most important song was the one that you and I have memorized. She called it “The Carol of the Drums,” though it would later be changed to “The Little Drummer Boy.”
This is a song my sister and I have talked to each other about for years as one of our top favourite Christmas songs. The idea of a poor boy who has nothing to give a king and decides to play his very best for the newborn on his drum is nothing short of inspiring.
Something about the song I didn’t know until this year is that it was first recorded by the Trapp Family Singers! Since then it’s been covered by Johnny Cash, The Supremes, Anne Murray, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, New Kids on the Block, Whiteheart (my sister’s and my favourite), Alicia Keys, Charlotte Church, Earth Wind and Fire, Bing Crosby, Bing Crosby with David Bowie, and even The Brady Bunch. It was also sung by the Vienna Boys Choir who recorded the song for the TV special it inspired of the same name. A special I grew up with and loved.
I once heard Michael W. Smith say that a music artist’s dream is that their music outlives them. This is certainly the case with “The Little Drummer Boy,” but this year we will remember the author of the masterpiece. Thank you for your song Katherine. I doubt it will ever be forgotten.
Congratulations The Polar Express. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Robin Wright as Belle in Disney’s A Christmas Carol.
Best Actor: Though both Jim Carrey and Tom Hanks played multiple roles in their respective movies, I think the winner this week should be Hugh Laurie as Steve in Arthur Christmas. I’m not sure I’ve watched this movie all the way through, but I love Laurie’s voice. And since all of the actors this week are voice actors, Dr. House wins.
Best Quote: “The thing about trains… it doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.” — Tom Hanks as the Conductor in The Polar Express.
Merry Christmas everyone!