a choral holiday

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Choirmas is a seasonal blog that re-emerges each December to share the choral music of Christmas and Advent, as performed by some of the most phenomenal liturgical choirs in the Anglican (and Catholic) choral tradition, from chapels, cathedrals, and churches across Britain and around the world.

Inspired by such beloved traditions as the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge and the candlelit Darkness to Light Advent procession at Salisbury Cathedral, I’ve taken it as a yearly project to spread some of this gorgeous sacred music around. Beginning on 1 December , each day leading up to Christmas, this blog will post an assortment of Christmas carols and anthems, Advent hymns and motets, and maybe a few pieces that, while not technically specific to the season or Christian in source, are nevertheless stunning examples of the power of poetry and the grace of the human voice.

We hope that you will follow along and continue to share this music throughout the month. In the meantime, have a beautiful Advent and a peaceful journey toward Christmas.

In the Bleak Midwinter (Holst)
  • In the Bleak Midwinter (Holst)
  • Choir of St John's College, Cambridge
Play

In the Bleak Midwinter (Holst)
Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge

(Holst’s setting, heard here, of Christina Rosetti’s poem takes the form of a hymn; Harold Darke’s anthem setting of the same poem, published five years after Holst’s, is arguably more complex and has been voted the best Christmas carol written. It can be heard here.)

[ If audio doesn’t play on your dash, click here. ]

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Christmas Carols Masterpost: The Major Carols

For the past seven Decembers, this blog has been posting daily Christmas carols performed by some of the most extraordinary cathedral, chapel, abbey, and church choirs in Britain and from around the world. As of December 2015, hundreds of Christmas and Advent carols, hymns, motets, and songs are archived or linked to here.

Below is a list of just some of the lighter, more outright soothing or celebratory and carols that have been featured here over the years. Here, you’ll find the Willcocks descants and brass fanfares as well as the crèche lullabies and soothing-songs.  

A list of more subdued and haunting minor-key and modal pieces can be found here.

By no means are all of the past seven years’ worth of carols represented in this list, but you are very welcome to explore the archive to hear more. In the meantime, new carols will continue to post through Christmas Day.

Some particular choices of mine are marked with [*

Enjoy the music, pass it on, and have a very happy Advent and Christmas.

The 12 Days of Christmas
Wells Cathedral Choir

Adeste Fideles
Westminster Cathedral Choir

[*] Advent Matins Responsory & Come, Thou Redeemer of the Earth
Salisbury Cathedral Choir

Angels from the Realms of Glory
Choir of Washington National Cathedral Cathedral

[*] Ave Maria (Parsons)
Choir of York Minster

Away in a Manger (American Melody)
The American Boychoir

Away in a Manger (British Melody)
Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge

[*] A Ceremony of Carols (Britten)
Choeur de la Maîtrise de la Perverie, Nantes

The Cherry Tree Carol
Worcester Cathedral Choir

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting)
Wells Cathedral Choir

Deck the Hall
The American Boychoir

Ding Dong, Merrily on High
Wells Cathedral Choir

Est ist Ein Ros Entsprungen (arr. Sandström)
Choir of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh

The First Nowell
Choir of the Cathedral of the Madeleine

Gloucestershire Wassail 
(’Wassail, Wassail All Over the Town’)
Choir of Ely Cathedral

Good King Wenceslas
Hereford Cathedral Choir

[*] Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Choir of St Peter’s Anglican Cathedral, Adelaide

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Wells Cathedral Choir

Hodie Christus Natus Est
Chester Cathedral Choir

[*] Hodie Rex Caelorum Est
Choir of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh

The Holly & the Ivy
Guildford Cathedral Choir

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas
Wells Cathedral Choir

The Infant King
Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

[*]  In Dulci Jubilo
Exeter Cathedral Choir

[*] In the Bleak Midwinter (Darke)
Manchester Cathedral Choir

[*] In the Bleak Midwinter (arr. Holst)
Choir of St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue

I Saw Three Ships
Choir of St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear (American Melody)
St Peter’s Choir

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear (British Melody)
Choir of St Peter’s Anglican Cathedral, Adelaide

[*] Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree
Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge

[*] Jingle Bells
Wells Cathedral Choir

Joy to the World
St Paul’s Cathedral Choir

The Little Drummer Boy
Men of St Albans Cathedral Choir

[*] The Little Road to Bethlehem
Boy Choristers of St Paul’s Church, Harvard Square, Cambridge

Excerpts from Messiah
There Were Shepherds; And Lo, the Angel of the Lord; And the Angel Said Unto Them; And Suddenly; Glory to God
Choir of New College, Oxford

[*] O Come, All Ye Faithful
Choir of St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue 

[*] O Holy Night
Czech Philharmonic Children’s Choir

[*] O Holy Night (Treble Solo)
H. Paish, BBC Radio 2 Young Chorister of the Year

O, Leave Your Sheep
Guildford Cathedral Choir

O Little Town of Bethlehem (American Melody)
The All-American Boys Chorus

O Little Town of Bethlehem (Traditional British Melody: ‘Forest Green’)
Choir of York Minster

O Little Town of Bethlehem (Alternative British Melody: 'Wengen’)
Choir of Wells Cathedral

[*] Once in Royal David’s City
Choir of Winchester Cathedral

People, Look East
Exeter Cathedral Choir

Pueri Concinite
Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Marc

Quem Pastores Laudavere
Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Rudolphus Rubrinasus
(‘Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer; sung in Latin)
Choir of St Clement’s Church, Philadelphia

See Amid the Winter’s Snow
St Paul’s Cathedral Choir

[*] The Shepherds’ Carol (Chilcott)
Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Silent Night / Stille Nacht
Choir of Washington National Cathedral

Still, Still, Still
Winchester Cathedral Choir

Suo Gân (Welsh Lullaby)
Choir of Peterborough Cathedral

The Sussex Carol
Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge

Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day
Choir of Durham Cathedral

[*] Up! Good Christian Folk and Listen
Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy
The Georgia Boy Choir

We Wish You a Merry Christmas
The American Boychoir

[*] What Sweeter Music Can We Bring?
Choir of York Minster

Whence is That Goodly Fragrance Flowing?
Roder 
Meisjeskoor

While Shepherds Watched
Exeter Cathedral Choir