Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The 25 greatest carols ...

I've been counting down toward Christmas the last few days with what the folks at ("the official website of BBC Music Magazine") are calling "The 25 greatest Christmas Carols." Had I discovered the site sooner, I'd have started counting earlier.

These are presented as "the best Christmas carols ever written, as voted for by 50 top choral experts from across the UK and US."

Today's is Herbert Howells' setting for a "A Spotless Rose," performed during 2013 lessons and carols at Kings College Cambridge --- hence the illustration of a chorister here.


I love Christmas music, choral and otherwise --- or at least most of it. Although it does get a little old when it commences the day after Thanksgiving and then stops abruptly after a full-day glut on the 25th. When, of course, it should commence on Christmas Eve and continue through Epiphany unless confined to special pre-holiday programming.

There are exceptions, most involving newer tunes. The Christmasization of Leonard Cohen's glorious "Hallelujah," for example, causes me to sputter when backed into a corner and forced to listen --- a critic once described this travesty as the most "intellectually bankrupt and aesthetically insipid" Christmas song ever written. Close.

I'd give that honor, however, to "The Christmas Shoes." Some years ago I was taken to a Christmas morning service in a large church where we were treated to a karaoke performance of this gem. It was the sort of experience that could cause the most convicted believer to leave a building fully atheist.

On the other hand, I'm a fan of "Granny Got Run Over by a Reindeer" and, as you might expect from a card-carrying homosexual of a certain age, Barbara Streisand's 1967 "A Christmas Album" is mandatory listening during the holiday season.


Anyhow, give the greatest carols site a try --- here's the link. Every carol is accompanied by a brief explainer and a YouTube performance.

Here's one of my favorites --- John Gardner's arrangement of "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day," No. 20 on the BBC list.

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