Dr. Black has already embedded one of the few worthwhile modern Xmas songs.* And I usually leave re-posting this story to Brad DeLong, but he appears to have gone all-in for Latin and skipped it this year. So, without further ado, Mark Evanier:
I arrived, headed for my favorite barbecue stand and, en route, noticed that Mel Torme was seated at one of the tables.
Mel Torme. My favorite singer. Just sitting there, sipping a cup of coffee, munching on an English Muffin, reading The New York Times. Mel Torme.
I had never met Mel Torme. Alas, I still haven’t and now I never will. He looked like he was engrossed in the paper that day so I didn’t stop and say, “Excuse me, I just wanted to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed all your records.” I wish I had….
I waved the leader of the chorale over and directed his attention to Mr. Torme, seated about twenty yards from me.
“That’s Mel Torme down there. Do you know who he is?”
The singer was about 25 so it didn’t horrify me that he said, “No.”
I asked, “Do you know ‘The Christmas Song?'”
Again, a “No.”
I said, “That’s the one that starts, ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…'”
“Oh, yes,” the caroler chirped. “Is that what it’s called? ‘The Christmas Song?'”
“That’s the name,” I explained. “And that man wrote it.” The singer thanked me, returned to his group for a brief huddle…and then they strolled down towards Mel Torme. I ditched the rest of my sandwich and followed, a few steps behind. As they reached their quarry, they began singing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” directly to him.
A big smile formed on Mel Torme’s face — and it wasn’t the only one around. Most of those sitting at nearby tables knew who he was and many seemed aware of the significance of singing that song to him. For those who didn’t, there was a sudden flurry of whispers: “That’s Mel Torme…he wrote that…”
As the choir reached the last chorus or two of the song, Mel got to his feet and made a little gesture that meant, “Let me sing one chorus solo.” The carolers — all still apparently unaware they were in the presence of one of the world’s great singers — looked a bit uncomfortable. I’d bet at least a couple were thinking, “Oh, no…the little fat guy wants to sing.”
But they stopped and the little fat guy started to sing…and, of course, out came this beautiful, melodic, perfectly-on-pitch voice. The look on the face of the singer I’d briefed was amazed at first…then properly impressed.
On Mr. Torme’s signal, they all joined in on the final lines: “Although it’s been said, many times, many ways…Merry Christmas to you…” Big smiles all around.
And not just from them. I looked and at all the tables surrounding the impromptu performance, I saw huge grins of delight…which segued, as the song ended, into a huge burst of applause. The whole tune only lasted about two minutes but I doubt anyone who was there will ever forget it.
Go read the whole thing. The rest of us have to abide with this: