Ben Schenck tells the story behind Panorama's new Christmas song.
This year, the Panorama Jazz Band began recording and releasing a song online, free to those who sign up for the band’s mailing list. In honor of the season, they cut their arrangement of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” under the title, “Christmas (Like Ya Just Don’t Care).” According to Panorama leader Ben Schenck, the version’s origins date back to 1990 when he visited his sister who was studying abroad in London. At one point, he hitchhiked to Wales and had the experience, living in a B&B and eating at the pub.
“It was December, and the only instrument I had with me was a harmonica, which is pitched in a major key,” he says. “It worked fine for most Christmas songs. ‘Silent Night’—got it. ‘Joy to the World’—no problem. But when it came to ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” I couldn’t do it. I tried playing it in a major key, which is really kooky. I was telling Evan Christopher about it yesterday and said, It’s really cheesy,” but I have a really high cheese tolerance. I can listen to Barry Manilow. I love pop music. I’m not a musician who’s trying to be hip.
“Panorama Jazz Band gets calls every year to play holiday parties, so I started arranging Christmas songs. We can do ‘Jingle Bells’ in 7/8, and different takes on holiday tunes, and since we’ve been doing this monthly drop—putting out a track every month, digital-only—I thought, Oh man, we should do a Christmas song. We’ve never recorded any of our Christmas songs, and I really enjoy this arrangement so much. When you hear ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ in a major key, I told my band when we rehearsed it, Here’s when the cartoon mice come out.
“Once we tracked it, I felt we could have a hit on our hands. The hope with a Christmas song is that you get played every year. This could become part of people’s holiday tradition if we’re lucky.”