Cracking Christmas Carols

After singing in 5 carol concerts over the Christmas period-with Trinity Boys and Croydon Minster, I wanted to share my favourite carol. Forget Classic FM’s ‘the nations favourite Carol’, to be aired on Christmas Day, this is the one everyone will be talking about! And also after my Handel piece got 18 views (shock) a week ago, I thought I better feed the hungry lions…

I couldn’t possibly share my all time favourite, as that would be far too controversial. Therefore I’m going to split our winter tunes into categories:

  1. Traditional (hymns)
  2. Modern (not including John Rutter)
  3. John Rutter
  4. Pop Christmas Songs

Obviously the king of carols deserved his own category, and he wrote some real bangers so I’m going to have to really justify my choice with him!!

Firstly, we’ve got traditional Carol: Masters in this Hall arr. Willcocks
Recommended recording: Bach choir and Sir David Willcocks 

I don’t really need to justify this one, having sung it for five ish years at the Royal Albert Hall (only to be rejected this year), it never fails to give you that spine-tingling feeling of singing your heart out and pretending to be manly (easier for some than others). For me, although O Come all ye Faithful and Hark the Herald can’t not be included in any Carol concert, they don’t provide the fresh ideas that Masters does, this may be due to them being traditional, but I still can’t look past it.

For the Modern category excluding the king: A Spotless Rose by Herbert Howells
Reccomended recording: King’s College, Cambridge 2013 (without a doubt)

This had some fierce competition, with Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day arr. John Gardner (Winchester Cathedral best recording) closely behind, and others like Jesus Christ the Apple Tree by Poston and In the bleak Mid-Winter by Darke. However for me, hearing Joel Williams, ex-Trinity boy sing with such finesse, it was a no brainer.  

John Rutter Category: Shephard’s Pipe Carol

Recommended recording: The Cambridge Singers (John Rutter songbook)

This was an easy choice to get to the final 2, but the reason I chose the Pipe Carol over Star Carol was because it offers a more complex melody, far more interesting counter-melodies and also a fantastic ending that you just don’t see coming! It starts beautifully, word painting the night scene and introducing our shepherd boy piping on the way to Bethlehem. The fabulous piccolo player of the orchestra certainly is ‘piping tunes so merrily’, as he gives a certain understanding of where the melody is going. At the change, 1:07, we get a great balance between parts, and then although the tenor section only get one time to shine, they keep it professionally contained-unlike some of The London Philarmonic Choir last night at the Albert hall. The fairly young (I would guess) sopranos are of top quality. When our mega tune returns, the master keeps us dancing with his fabulous integration of 3/8 writing. Rutter doesn’t mix it up quite as much as possible, but certainly gives it his best shot up until his killer penultimate chord. What a piece.

Finally my Pop Song choice: All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey

I haven’t really got much to say about this to be honest, it’s a classic. What I do want to do is share my  experience of this song. It was the first or second Trinity Christmss Jazz Evenings, and I was playing trombone with the Senior Big Band, conducted by Mr Michael Holiday himself. Now, I have very many happy memories of this man, but one of the best was during an arrangement of this song. Minty was well known for being a quite frankly horrendous pianist, but when it got to this piece and he waddled over to the piano, played those opening chords and did a whopping great gliss on our brand new Steinway grand piano, (thank god Mr Evans wasn’t there!), it just made me feel great. Thank you Mrs Carey and Mr Halideu!

I hope you enjoyed my choices, and please feel free to comment your favourite songs in all or one of these categories!


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