westminster cathedral choir


Christmas Carols Masterpost: The Minor 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 here.

The following list is a selection of some of the more sombre, unexpectedly spine-tingling carols that have been featured here over the years. These are often less familiar than are the Silent Nights and Hark! the Heralds, but they are no less sublime than their more extroverted cousins. 

Thematically, these carols are haunting lullabies and reflections on the dark waiting-time of Advent, laments for doomed innocents and narratives of the mysterious, awesome intersections of the human and the divine.  

A more familiar list of major-key carols can be found here. (If you’re in search of the Willcocks descants and congregational gems, go there!) 

By no means are all of the past seven years’ worth of carols represented in these lists, 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, and have a very happy Advent and Christmas.

Adam Lay Ybounden (arr. Ledger)
Choir of St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue

Away in a Manger (arr. Kelsey)
Choir of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh

A Babe is Born (Mathias)
Manchester Cathedral Choir

Balulalow (Warlock)
Choir of Ripon Cathedral

[*] Behold, I Bring You Glad Tidings
Manchester Cathedral Choir

Before Dawn (Andrews)

Choir of New College, Oxford

[*] Bethlehem Down (Warlock)
Truro Cathedral Choir

[*]  BWV 61: Nun Komm, der Heiden Heiland (Bach)
Choir of Manchester Cathedral

Carol of the Bells (Ukrainian Bell Carol)
Ripon Cathedral Choir

The Corpus Christi Carol

Choir of St Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide

[*]  The Coventry Carol
Choir of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh

E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come 
Choir of Washington National Cathedral

The Fayrfax Carol (Adès)

Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Follow That Star
Wells Cathedral Choir 

[*] Gabriel’s Message (Basque Melody)
Choir of St Matthew’s Church, Northampton

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen
Choir of Durham Cathedral

[*]  Here is the Little Door (Howells)
Wells Cathedral Choir

The Huron Carol
Choir of St Matthew’s Church, Ottawa

[*]  A Hymn to the Virgin (Britten)
Salisbury Cathedral Choir

I Sing of a Maiden (Hadley)
Westminster Cathedral Choir

[*]  I Wonder as I Wander (arr. Rütti)
Chester Cathedral Choir

[*]  The Lamb (Tavener)
St Albans Cathedral Choir

[*] Long the Night (arr. Massey)
Hereford Cathedral Choir

Lullay Myn Lyking
Winchester Cathedral Choir

Lully, Lulla, Thou Little Tiny Child (Leighton)
Choir of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh

Lux Aurumque (Whitacre)
Wells Cathedral Choir

The Magi (Carter)
York Minster Choir

Noël Nouvelet
Choeur de La Maîtrise de Toulouse

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Choir of the Cathedral of the Madeleine

[*]  O Magnum Mysterium (Lauridsen)
Wells Cathedral Choir

[*]  O Magnum Mysterium (Poulenc)
Choir of New College, Oxford 

O Magnum Mysterium (Victoria)
Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

[*]  Quem Vidistes Pastores
Salisbury Cathedral Choir

Remember, O Thou Man (Ravenscroft)
Choir of Eton College

[*] Sing Lullaby (Howells)
Choir of York Minster

A Spaceman Came Travelling (de Burgh)
Boys Air Choir

Sweet Was the Song the Virgin Sang
Choir of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle

This is the Truth Sent from Above (arr. R.V. Williams)
Salisbury Cathedral Choir

The Three Kings (Dove)
York Minster Choir

Veni, Veni, Emmanuel
Choeur d'Enfants de la Maitrise de la Perverie

[*] Videntes Stellam
Choeur de La Maîtrise de Toulouse

Virga Jesse (Bruckner)
Choir of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh

[*] Vox Dicentis: Clama (Naylor)
York Minster Choir

Walking in the Air (Blake)
Theme from ‘The Snowman’
Peter Auty, St Paul’s Cathedral Chorister

We Three Kings
Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

[*]  What Child is This?

Choir of King’s College, Cambridge


I was at a school that I ended up having to leave because there was such a strong choir presence. It was in London and it was called the Westminster Cathedral Choir School, and they had three choirs. They had the International Choir, world renowned, toured the world. They had the National Choir and they had the the school choir, and I was the only boy who wasn’t in any of those choirs. At break time I was the only boy…tone deaf over here.



And then ‘quod est super omne nomen’- So lush.  I just love he dynamics on this. I still love the live version with Westminster Cathedral choir, even if it’s runined by cameras taking photos.