As someone who has always celebrated Christmas, I confess that I both love it and hate it Christmas music.
But even with the yearly musical overdose, I do have some Christmas music that I truly love, year after year. I have also heard confessions from friends who don't celebrate Christmas -- especially musicians, that they too have certain favorites among Christmas-associated music.
So if you were to voluntarily listen to some Christmas music during this season, what kind of playlist would you choose? Do you like Christmas carols, perhaps sung by a choir? Or would you probably go for classical favorites like the Nutcracker, or Handel's oratorio, the Messiah? Or, do you prefer to put classical music aside and go the pop route, when it comes to Christmas? Pop? Country? Something else?
On Christmas morning, I tend to put the Nutcracker ballet on the speakers for background music - I just have so many happy memories of playing it and hearing it. But this year - I'm not sure. I will not be able to play my Christmas Eve candlelight service with a church choir - I might prefer to hear something like an album of Christmas carols, sung by a choir. Or -- I can never get enough of certain old albums that my parents used to play when I was a child, like Barbra Streisand's 1967 Christmas album - there's nothing quite like her "Ave Maria!"
What Christmas music do you like best? Please vote for a genre in the poll, and if we don't have the right answer for you, tell us about it in the comments. And if you simply detest all Christmas music, fair enough - I've provided the "bah humbug" answer for you!
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Christmas-themed classical. Choral carols are OK.
Most years I'm already sick of Christmas pop, as well as easy-listening instrumental versions of carols, by the beginning of December. That's because some stores in my area start playing them obscenely early in the year... as in the first week of October.
When I was a kid, my parents always put on a recording of the Robert Shaw Chorale singing Christmas carols. I loved that! Now (and don't judge me) I find one of those "burning Yule log" stations on TV and pick the one that is playing orchestral renditions of the most popular carols. There are always some Leroy Anderson arrangements thrown in, which I adore.
Vienna Choir Boys recording of German Carols.
Puer Natus Est Nobis: Gregorian chant
Viderunt Omnes: Perotin
Verbum Caro: Sheppard
I like carols best, especially folk carols and wassail songs, sung by folk singers rather than choirs. Simpler is better for me.
Corelli's Christmas Concerto is lovely.
I hate Jingle Bells and Schmalzy Supermarket Christmas Songs.
I checked the musical "Scrooge" on Wikipedia - There isn't a number called "Bah Humbug", otherwise ...
There are some outstanding Christmas classical things that might not get mentioned, unless I mention them:
Bach's Christmas Oratorio, Magnificat, etc.
Berlioz's l'Enfence du Christ (though like almost all Berlioz it has its tedious sections)
Brahms's Lullaby for the Christ Child (Contralto Viola & Piano) and Chorale Prelude on "Es ist ein ros entsprungen" (Organ)
Michael Praetorius is worth a listen too.
Re Corelli's Christmas Concerto: I agree with Mollie. In fact, my string quartet played parts of it last year at my teacher's recital.
It's something I can listen to any time of year.
Christmas classical + English/German choir music:
–O Come O Come Emmanuel (which we sing with revised lyrics through Advent)
–Britten's Ceremony of Carols
–The hymns we do every year for Lessons and Carols, e.g. Adam Lay Y'Bounden (Boris Ord version), "People Look East", "Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People", the Magnificat, etc.
–the "orange book" (Willcocks/Rutter arrangements of Christmas/Advent carols)
–Gustav Holst's setting of Personent Hodie
–the Schubert Sanctus (from his Deutsche Messe), which we only do in Advent.
It's a mixed blessing, singing in a church choir on Christmas–we are usually in church from 5 until 11:30 PM and by the end, my voice is typically shot. On the one hand, you're helping create a magical Christmas for churchgoers! On the other hand, it's a weird night to be away from family. I'd often be stuffing stockings at midnight or later. A while ago I started sneaking a thermos of mulled wine and some mugs into the choir loft before the second service–which made it a lot more fun, if also slightly error-prone.
Classical -- notably the above-mentioned Handel and Corelli items. I also like many of the carols -- especially the ones that keep Jesus, "the reason for the season," in view. The Robert Shaw recording, also mentioned above, is on YouTube. I came across it there a few years back, and I find it greatly enjoyable.
Corelli, Byrd, Praetorius.
I'm an atheist with a generally negative view of organized religion, including Christianity. In spite of that bias, I actually really enjoy Christmas music as long as it's well-written, well-performed (think Canadian Brass here), and well-produced -- and as long as I don't have to be subjected to it all day long. If I worked in a place where it's pop-X-mas-tunes piped in non-stop, I'm sure I'd lose my mind then, but that would be true if it were just Top-40 all day too. (Such indignities should be subject to OSHA regulation, but I digress.) I am even fine with the carols that "keep Jesus in view," as Jim writes, because those are the traditional lyrics, and they work -- they rhyme nicely and they pair well with the music (otherwise they wouldn't have survived so many years), and that's how I've always heard them. I actually prefer the most traditional carols like "Harold Angel" and so forth (credit Charles Schulz), whereas I'm less keen on the more secular tunes like "Frosty the Snowman."
Often we hear that we should "keep the Christmas spirit year-round" and similar bromides. As someone who plays jazz gigs (on the piano), during a normal Christmas season I would have a lot of gigs to play, and I'm usually called on to play violin for "The Messiah" and such, which adds up to a very busy schedule at a time that is already stressful at work (year's end). And everyone wants to hire music between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which means gigs have to be turned away, and people on the hiring side have to be satisfied with an ensemble lacking a pianist (there are are only three or four jazz pianists around these parts to hire) or a little thin on violins (not so many of those around either). So I'd like to recommend to those who are positions of sufficient authority to finance holiday parties with live music, that you consider having an "annual staff party" at some other time like October or February when gig-playing folks like me are usually looking for more work. You can still exchange gifts if you like, and thereby spread the "Christmas spirit" across the calendar. And especially if you're working at a public institution, "keeping Jesus in view" is probably not the best idea after all, as preference to one set of beliefs (or to having religions beliefs generally) is not appropriate there.
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December 20, 2020 at 04:53 AM · Hannukah music. But I do like the Nutcracker. I actually don't associate it with Christmas even though I've seen the ballet.