Let me start off by saying that I am not at all religious and these days pretty much regard Christmas as a secular holiday. However, when it comes to music, I like to keep the Christ in Christmas. So, when I say I love Christmas music, I generally don’t mean anything that uses the words rock or bells (although exceptions can be made in the case of music recorded before I was born). The fact that I have relegated all my Santa-related music to a playlist called “Get Behind Me, Santa” basically tells you all you need to know.
Along with opera, Christmas music is really the only thing I buy on CD these days and I recently added a few new favorites to my collection that I wanted to share. The first two albums are by The Cambridge Singers, conducted by John Rutter—Christmas Night: Carols of the Nativity and The Cambridge Singers Christmas Album. I can’t believe this group escaped my notice for so long. Both of these albums are fabulous collections of traditional European carols, and, although I’d give a slight edge to the selection on Christmas Album (“Somerset Wassail”; “Still, Still, Still”; “Gabriel’s Message”; “In dulci jubilo”), Christmas Night has “The Cherry Tree Carol,” which is one of my all-time favorites.
Also out of England is a collection from the early 1990s, A Traditional Christmas Carol Collection by The Sixteen, conducted by Harry Christophers. These carols are probably a bit more familiar to your ears than those of The Cambridge Singers, but still remain fairly traditional, similar to the selections of the Robert Shaw Chorale, which is an old standby, along with Now Is the Caroling Season by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, a favorite from my childhood.