I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to shoot something when “Jingle Bells” starts blaring November 1.  Overkill, people.  But around this time (like, the week before Christmas), I really start to get into the spirit of things, and start playing Christmas music.

Some pieces I listen to year-round, because they don’t have specifically (modern) Christmas associations.  Many of these songs I only know because I sang them in university choir (thanks, Dick!), and they include:

  • My #1 favourite, “Cantique de Jean Racine” by Faure.  This has a special place in my heart because I’ve sung in it (soprano, alto, and tenor), accompanied it, and conducted it, and I still never get tired of it.  The harmony is so lush, and the piece is melancholy yet uplifting – ach, sigh.  It took me ages to find a recording that I liked (above).
  • “O Magnum Mysterium”, Morten Lauridsen.  Gives meaning to the word “unearthly”.  This one frequently brings tears to my eyes; truly heavenly to sing, and hear.
  • “Amen” from Handel’s Messiah. Yeah, yeah, we all know the Hallelujah Chorus, but for me the last bit is where my heart leaps to the heavens, especially on the fortissimo high G in the sopranos and tenors.  Gorgeous.

Other ones: “Panis Angelicus” (I find I prefer a tenor to treble soloist), Mozart’s “Laudate Dominum” (a bit overplayed, but lovely just the same), and Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus” (love it).  Oh, and Franz Liszt’s “Ave Maria”.  I could on and on.

Of the more folk-y, carol-y pieces:

  • “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”  Okay, it’s an Advent hymn, but there is nothing – nothing – like hearing a 70-strong choir singing it a cappella, as they come into a candlelit church, and hearing six verses sung with increasing strength until the final descant.
  • “O Holy Night.”  I prefer the straight versions, sung without embellishment, without ornamentation, letting the music shine through.  Pavarotti’s version ranks high.
  • “The Holly and the Ivy”.  When I hear this song, I see a child whirling its arms as snow comes sprinkling down, then the camera pans up to show an elf sitting in a tree, shaking a bucket of snow down on the child.  Don’t ask me why, because that’s not what the song’s about.

And, okay, it’s totally modern, but I like it: “All I Want for Christmas Is You”.  The version I’ve included isn’t the Mariah Carey (who does a bang-up job), but Olivia Olson from Love Actually, who, along with the rest of the choir and the awesome audience (and yeah, okay, high production value), possibly does an even banger-up job than La Carey.


What are some of your favourite Christmas songs?

– Jean AAR

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I live in Seattle, Washington and work as a legal assistant. I remember learning to read (comic strips) at a young age and nowadays try to read about 5-6 books a week. I love to travel, especially to Europe, and enjoy exploring smaller towns off the tourist track though London is my favorite city in the world.