What’s your favorite Christmas music?

Quite a few of our most beloved and familiar Christmas carols have roots in the baroque era or even before. Many of them started as popular secular music such as dances, folk songs, or even drinking songs, with festive words added to go with the holiday theme. One of my favorites is Branle de l’Official from Thoinot Arbeau’s Orchesographie. It’s a dance tune from the 1580s, but you probably know it better as the lively Christmas carol Ding Dong! Merrily on High. In 1924 George Ratcliffe Woodward wrote the familiar words to go with the ancient dance melody. Do you have any favorite Christmas music? Maybe you even sing in a choir and have some hands-on experience guiding your choice of favorites. I’d love to know what music (baroque or otherwise) helps makes Christmas special for you and your family.

3 comments on “What’s your favorite Christmas music?

  1. Peter D. Marshall on

    Oh, I love so many different kinds of Christmas music. You should see my collection. It’s way more than any one person ought to have! As a lover of mostly classical and jazz, my collection leans heavily to those. But I do have some other folk and pop Christmas albums too.

    One of my favorite pieces is “Joy to the World” as arranged by John Rutter in the style of Handel. It sounds as if it could have been lifted from Messiah.

    I’m also very fond of a song called “Sweet Bells” as performed by Kate Rusby; an easy search on youtube will get you to it. It’s based upon “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night,” but it’s a Yorkshire take on it.

    I also love “Coventry Carol” in many different performances and arrangements.

    And Garrison Keillor wrote some splendid lyrics to “In The Bleak Midwinter” that I like better than the original. (I prefer Holst’s melody; can’t stand Darke’s.)

    There’s a fascinating expanded version of Rudolph that was performed on the Fibber McGee and Molly program in 1949 that is way better than the simple version we all know.

    And speaking of John Rutter, he’s written quite a few originals that I love as well, too numerous to mention here.

    I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you!

  2. Robert Humberston on

    Christmas music is my favorite and a core of my collection of recordings since I first became a student and lover of early music in the 1960’s. In eighth grade I was lucky to have had a music appreciation course with intensive listening assignments, and my introduction to early music came from the New York Pro Musica album of Christmas Music from the Medieval Court and Countryside. The performers were outstanding and I immediately started to play recorders as a result.
    As for favorite Christmas music today, some 53 years later, I’ve had the good fortune of spending many Advent seasons traveling in Europe, especially to Austria and Germany, where I think the traditional art and folk genres are without peer. My favorite album is a collection of traditional music performed by the Munich Bach Choir, with my favorite selection the Renaissance Uebers Gebirg Maria. An outstanding early sacred choral ensemble from Salzburg, Salzburger Virgilschola, released a superb album of chant and motets from medieval Salzburg which is part of our Christmas Eve family listening custom.
    Otherwise collections of Christmas music from the English Cathedral and Collegiate traditions are staples, a number of which are already part of the Sunday Baroque repertoire, Hilliard etc. Along with Bach, and Alpine folk Christmas music, the riches kept us listening to the seasonal music well beyond Epiphany.

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