I am a Jew who loves Christmas music. All year round, my internal tape has carols playing. Since 1991, I have collected CDs of unusual Christmas music. I try to buy something new each year, and I have accumulated quite a collection of those outdated compact discs. My collection ranges from medieval and Renaissance music, Gregorian chants, Russian choral music, to “Oy to The World”, a collection of klezmer carols! Welcome to a selection of my Collection.
One of my most favorites is “Carols from King’s“, the Christmas festival of Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge. It starts with “Once in Royal David’s City”, the first verse sung by a solo young chorister, and continuing with the full choir. For some reason, this one never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Very beautiful.
I have always been fond of Early Music, and the Boston Camerata has done a number of Christmas albums from various periods, and locales. One of the very first unusual discs I bought was their “Renaissance Christmas”, which contains this song, Riu Riu Chiu. Their “Noel, Noel!” album has French Christmas music from 1200 to 1600, quite a long time! I also have their “American Christmas” disc, and I love the song “Jesus the Light of The World”.
The Baltimore Consort has been one of my favorite groups for a long time, and their album “Bright Day Star” has a great selection of early Christmas songs. Their lead singer, Custer LaRue (yes, her real name!) does a great job on the Cherry Tree Carol.
I am of Russian extraction on both sides of my family, and I love the sound of sung Russian. I positively fell in love with the opera Boris Godunov, and I play my soundtrack often. I came across a disc entitled “Kiev Christmas Liturgy”, sung by the Moscow Liturgic Choir under the direction of Father Amvrosy. Imagine Gregorian Chant, in Russian. I searched YouTube, but could not find any selections from this disc, so you’ll have to find it. It is really sublime singing.
For a couple of years, I was interested in things French, so I looked for recordings of French Christmas music. My husband actually brought home a disc entitled “Une Nuit de Noel“, by Martin Gester. The choir is Parlement de Musique, and the organ is one made by J. Boizzard in 1714, at the cathedral of Saint-Michel-en-Thierache in France. My orchestra played a nice arrangement of Daquin’s Noel Number Ten for our recent concert, and this disc has a marvelous rendition. I have a disc entitled “Chantons Noel, Let’s Sing of Christmas, with a nice collection of French carols.
So that’s a small sampling. Here’s a list of other Christmas music playing around our house this season.
“Thys Yool”, Medieval Christmas music by the Martin Best Ensemble.
“Gregorian Christmas”, Chants and Motets by various ensembles
“Medieval Christmas” by the Orlando Consort
“Good People All“, instrumentals by a local family group, Magical Strings.
“Christmas Carols and Motets”, by the Tallis Scholars
“Out of the Orient Crystall Skyes”, a Christmas album by Seattle soprano Nancy Zylstra. This is an especially important disc, since it is her last recording. She has Myasthenia Gravis and can no longer sing.
And, of course, The Messiah. I have the set by the Academy of Ancient Music, led by Christopher Hogwood. The soloists are the sublime Emma Kirkby, Soprano; Judith Nelson, Soprano; Carolyn Watkinson, Contralto; Paul Elliott, Tenor; and David Thomas, Bass. I have listened to and gone to hear, many Messiahs, but in my opinion this is the best ever performed or recorded. I would LOVE comments about what you think, and who does your favorite Messiah.
Merry Christmas to all my readers and followers!