Saturday, 13 December 2014

52 Lists / Fifty


This week: List your favourite Christmas carols, music and songs

I cannot underestimate how much I love Christmas music. Over the years I have acquired so many Christmas CDs. We've always had an unwritten rule to not listen to any music before the start of December, so I look forward to getting them all out on the morning of the 1st December and trying to play them all at some point during Advent and the holiday period. 

It's really hard to put together a shortlist of my favourites as there are far too many but this year I put together a CD of some of my favourites for my friend Shannon @ Toolson Family. I chose tracks that I thought were very British and she might not have heard before (she's lives in Washington State in America and I'm pretty sure that dear old Shaky hasn't reached there yet!), so I've decided that these are the songs I will share with you today. 

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen – Traditional Carol
There's something about this carol that evokes the spirit of a traditional Victorian Christmas and all things Dickens.

Dancing Day – Traditional, performed by Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band
I love some folky music at Christmas, perfect for our pie and ale night between Christmas and New Year when we put aside fancy food and bubbly for traditional grub. I love Maddy Prior's voice, for some reason I think she must be just like Clarrie Grundy from The Archers!

Here We Come A Wassailing – Traditional, performed by Kate Rusby
Rocking Carol – Traditional, performed by Kate Rusby
Kate Rusby has a beautiful voice and has such an extensive knowledge about the history of the tradition of the carol and carolling in Yorkshire. I would love to see her perform at Christmas but have her live video of Christmas songs and this and her seasonal CDs is brilliant for listening to when getting the house ready.

Gaudete – Traditional, performed by Steeleye Span
More folky music but I love this one particularly as it's one of Andy's favourites.

Coventry Carol – Traditional
This is beautiful and so calming. There are so many different versions of it but I love Sixteen's recording as the voices are so clear and bright.

Fantasia On Christmas Carols – Traditional, arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Wassail Song – Traditional, arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Life at home with Mum and Dad would not be the same without the music of Vaughan Williams. He was one of our nation's most important people with regards to preserving old carols and his arrangements are beautiful. These are both uplifting and calming. 

Bethlehem Down –  Peter Warlock
This is a beautiful piece of music, so minimal in volume and yet so powerful. I have sung this in concerts a couple of times and every time I enjoy it.

A Spotless Rose – Herbert Howells
I've listened to this 20th century piece for many years but it is only in the last year or so that I have really listened to it carefully and have sought out more pieces by Herbert Howells. I love to run myself a bath with festive bubbles and listen to this whilst I soak by candlelight. Peace!

In the Bleak Midwinter – Music by Harold Edwin Darkes
The version by Harold Darkes reminds me of the desolate English countryside in winter. I can see a beautiful country church and a snowy landscape. Whilst the words by Christina Rosetti are so gentle and innocent. It's the perfect carol for this cold, dark time of year.

Shepherd’s Farewell – Hector Berlioz performed by The Pavao Quartet
This piece by Berlioz is always sung at church on the last Sunday of Christmas just before the decorations are taken down. For me it signals the end of the festive period and the joys of Epiphany and Candlemas to come. This version is performed by my lovely friend Jenny Sacha and her string quartet.

Nativity Carol - John Rutter, performed by Clare College, Cambridge
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without some John Rutter. He has written some beautiful modern carols that are not only great to listen to but fantastic to sing.

The Power Of Love – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Something from my childhood in the 80s, that is beautiful and yet so cold. It always reminds Andy and I of an American store manager we had at Daisy & Tom who wouldn't allow this to be played at Christmas as she didn't think it was a seasonal song. I just hope she cringed at her comments when John Lewis used Gabrielle Aplin's version a few years ago. 

Walking In the Air (The Snowman) – Howard Blake, performed by Aled Jones
I grew up loving The Snowman. It really means Christmas for any chid of the 80s and this brings back memories of dancing around the dining room at my Uncle's house aged about 4 or 5. My dear Uncle passed away when I was only 8 and I have so few memories of him but this makes me remember him and is an ongoing connection to him. It gives me goosebumps and brings a tear to my eye every year.

Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid (Original version, 1984)
You cannot beat the original! When I hear the first few bars of this on the radio I know that Christmas is just around the corner. It has so many of my favourite performers on it and I play the game every year of trying to remember who sings what line.

In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield
This is our 'dancing round the kitchen' song. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it. Brilliant!

Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade
This is the epitome of a British Christmas in the 20th century - a perfect snapshot of working-class festive experiences. And you cannot help but sing along!

Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens
Another 80s tune (were the best Christmas songs written in the 70s and 80s?) that I just love dancing to and singing along with. If I was on the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special I would just have to Quickstep to this!

Other favourites...
The Nutcracker - Tchaikovsky (especially the Waltz of the Snowflakes and the Pas de Deux)
A Carol Symphony - Victor Hely-Hutchinson (Dad's favourite and memories of the BBC's The Box of Delights)
A Ceremony of Carols - Benjamin Brittain (through my chest infection I've missed out seeing this at St Paul's Cathedral this year - so disappointed, it's the perfect start to the holidays!)
Last Christmas - Wham
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Judy Garland
Sleigh Ride - Ella Fitzgerald

I could go on forever and still be writing this list at Christmas 2015!
I hope this has been an interesting list of my reasons behind my favourite Christmas music.

What are your favourite festive tunes and why?

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love the cd you made - great idea! It is even better now that I know the reason you chose the songs. I am going to hold off telling you my favorites, as I am sending you a reciprocal cd next year ;)

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