It should be thought of as one of the most beautiful Christmas songs, and is easily one of the most beautiful that no one ever thinks about, hums, requests or has noted at any point on their list of favorite holiday songs.


It’s so amazingly popular that if you Google snowfall, the song isn’t listed on any of the first wave of pages, nor is it offered as a related search topic. Heck, search anywhere for “snowfall song” and you’re more likely to see links for Claude Thornhill than any actual song. Which sort of makes sense. (Sort of.)

The song isn’t really a Christmas song. No holiday is ever noted. No mentioning of family traditions, travels home, sleighs or reindeer.

Thornhill was a composer and bandleader. Most sources list his work as well-regarded and professional, and both Thornhill and his band were known as strong musicians in jazz circles. And yet, other than brief work associations with Tony Bennett, Glenn Miller, and even Judy Garland, he remains… much like my noting of the song… one of the most talented jazz musicians that no one ever really thinks about.

He is credited with composing “Snowfall” around 1941. It was his wife, Ruth, that added the lyrics to the song later on.

The words do a wonderful job of matching up with the melody. They are so soft and simple that I really don’t want to even quote them here. I’d end up offering far too high a percentage of the song. Go ahead and take a moment to find them for yourself.

Doris Day delivered the version of “Snowfall” with vocals that I am most familiar with. Like the Thornhill original, simple, brilliant, elegant and wonderfully fitting.

I didn’t come here to discuss the song though. Not really. Instead…

Where I live, it snows.

A lot.

No, really, a lot. It snows a lot. In fact, we get snow when it doesn’t snow.

I could head outside on a winter evening. I might look up at a beautifully clear sky above. And the next morning I could wake to find an inch of snow on the car. No storms swept past while I slept. It didn’t snow in any traditional sense of the doppler-loving world. Still… time to clear the car off. Snowfall.

This year has been somewhat typical in the way that we are always treated to an atypical winter. I remain convinced that upstate New York cannot be forecast in advance for whether the winter months of that year will be known for massive accumulations, lengthy stretches of well below zero temperatures, or some other seasonal characteristic. Niagara Falls doesn’t freeze every year. Still, Niagara Falls always offers a winter wonderland of beauty.

I haven’t needed our snowblower this year. Used it once just because I had a few drifts and it felt easier. Mostly I’ve been out in the driveway with a shovel. Snow to clear, but never deep accumulations, and extreme cold bringing the light and fluffy stuff to the ground instead of really wet and heavy.

There I was one afternoon, walking back and forth and back and forth, thinking about snow. A few flakes were drifting in the air. Softly. Gently. Silent. And the song crept into my mind.

I heard the Doris Day version a few times this past holiday season. I may go a few years without hearing that rendition again. I don’t know if I’ll be pulling out my copy of the Manhattan Transfer CD The Christmas Album next year. I’m not sure if I’ll even remember that I haven’t heard the song play.

Each winter is slightly different from the last. Each holiday run, even with its traditions, slightly different as well. Almost like a snowflake. (Definitely like a snowfall.)


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