Christmas songs

I love Christmas. My very favourite time of year, especially musically speaking. I like to play Christmas carols and songs on the piano. In theory one could play ‘See amid the winter’s snow’ all year round, but it wouldn’t feel special without the eleven-month break.

Anyway, in the spirit of festivity, here are a few of my favourites.

I’m singing this Villette motet in a concert on Monday, for the first time in nearly ten years. What a fabulous piece. The final phrase should sound ecstatic, and will send shivers down the spine of choir and audience, if sung well (and in a good acoustic). We aspire to be as good as these young singers (age 13-18).

A touching song of a selfless act of charity.

A curiosity. The Wiener Sängerknaben from 1964, and quite an unprepossessing bunch they are, but their performance has charm and evokes something that is missing from Christmas today. Perhaps I have conceived some kind of false nostalgia for a German Christmas I never had. Gemütlichkeit and so on. The carol is originally Sicilian, I believe, and is also the basis of the Eels song ‘Baby Genius’.

A beautiful setting by Michael Praetorius of ‘Quem pastores laudavere’, not quite the same as the tune one usually hears. From one of the best Christmas CDs around, just rereleased at budget price.

Probably the definitive version of this classic.

And something from King’s, of course, featuring the choir of a few years ago. I have fond memories of singing John Joubert’s ‘Torches’ as a teenager when I first started singing in choirs. I hadn’t realised singing could be so exciting, though I don’t think I was ever quite as mad-eyed as the boy in the middle at the climax of this performance.

I’ll be around again before the month is out, I’m sure, but in any case let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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2 Responses to “Christmas songs”

  1. Cross Eyed Pianist Says:

    Lovely post, Gareth. I am very found of Christmas music (less so of the festival itself, as rampant consumerism obscures the real meaning of the event….at least in this country).

    ‘Torches’ was a great favourite with my school choir. As I recall, it was in a book called Carols for Choirs, edited by the esteemed modern carol composer, John Rutter (and still available). We used to go carol singing round the local area (Rickmansworth) with lanterns and 4-part harmonies.

    For me, Christmas begins with the first notes of ‘Once in Royal…’ at the opening of the Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College. Luckily for me (less so for my family, who moaned & protested!), we emerged from Eurotunnel on Christmas Eve this year in time to hear almost the entire service.

    Happy New Year!

  2. Gareth Says:

    Carols for Choirs 1 and 2 are both stalwarts in my house/church. Excellent that they contain so much that is both familiar and unfamiliar. My very good fortune means that I have been present at the Christmas Eve carol service at King’s for each of the past six years. I never cease to be grateful for this – it feels like the most tremendous privilege. Lovely service this year.

    Happy New Year to you, and, indeed, everyone else!

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