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Spend Christmas Eve listening to the radio instead of watching TV.

The Sounds of Christmas

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I don't know about your house, but at my house, radio always seems to work better on Christmas Eve than TV does.

I don't mean the radio itself, I mean what's being broadcast.

With family members running upstairs and down, wrapping presents, hunting for scissors and tape, mixing eggnog, cooking for the big day, welcoming drop-in friends and relatives, and worrying about last-minute shopping, radio seems better able to cut through the clatter than TV does.

So here are two suggestions, one for Christmas Eve morning and another for Christmas Eve itself. Both are from public radio (88.9 WCVE-FM) and both are guaranteed to keep you in touch with what the season's really supposed to be about. (And no, it's not about greed, or at least it's not supposed to be.)

At 9 a.m., it's "Legends of St. Nicholas." The historical St. Nicholas was venerated in early Christian legend for good deeds, including generosity to the poor. It wasn't long before his story spread throughout Europe, emphasizing his role as gift-bringer. In Holland he was called Sanct Herr Nicholaas or Sinter Klaas.

Santa Claus was brought to America by the Dutch who settled in New Amsterdam (now New York) in the 17th century, and author Washington Irving gave America its first detailed information about the Dutch version of Saint Nicholas.

In "Legends of St. Nicholas," the Anonymous 4 present four centuries of music about St. Nicholas in a performance recorded live at New York's Corpus Christi Church. The Anonymous 4 is an all-female ensemble that specializes in early music. Their awe-inspiring voices raised in songs that long predate the settlement of America by Europeans will remind you of how Christmas was marked in Gothic cathedrals in the early years of the millennium. It's truly a remarkable sound that will help keep you in touch with what the holy day stands for.

On Christmas Eve from 7 to 9 p.m., public radio presents "Jazz Piano," featuring holiday music from the latter half of our century in an idiom that's truly American. With few interruptions, you'll hear piano-jazz versions of seasonal songs ranging from the late Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song" to Vince Guaraldi's sweetly melancholic "Christmas Time Is Near," written for the TV broadcast of "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

You'll also hear evocative piano renditions of carols, such as "Away in a Manger," and bouncy jazz interpretations of Broadway show tunes, such as "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music." Closing out the broadcast will be two of the programs few vocals, Shirley Horne's "The Christmas Waltz" and the late Joe Williams' "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve."

From the music of the early Middle Ages to the jazz rhythms of the 1990s, you'll have a cool Yule with public radio this

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