Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A petite selection of Christmas music

As I write this post my advent candle is burning down the number 5 and I’m eating a warm mince pie. I’ve just come in from slipping and sliding in the snow having been to a performance of Britten’s Ceremony of Carols in Norwich Castle so I’m definitely full of that festive feeling.
                As an absolutely unashamed and indeed self-professed Christmas-lover I am as you would expect, thoroughly excited that December is finally upon us! I don’t think there’s anything about Christmas that I don’t like beyond the tacky cheesy stuff (because yes, of course, I am a Christmas snob). The food, the present buying, the decorations, the lights, the nip on your nose, the cosy candlelit evenings in front of the fire when you come in from the cold, and the endless board games and puzzles, it’s all marvellous. But there’s one thing in particular that I pretty much count down to each year from the end of one Christmas to the next, and that’s the music!
                I’m almost certain that my family and I are the only ones with such a ‘taste’ for all things Christmassy, but regardless I’d love to share some Christmas music with you as it’s the only time of the year that I might get away with it!

The one which kicks off my December and is then almost continually on repeat through to the 12th night every year is Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols. I can’t even imagine how many times I’ve listened to this piece, and yet every time the opening passage still manages to give me goose bumps. A potentially sweet or maybe a little strange story about this one – my Mum was in a performance of it when she was pregnant with me, and I finally got to perform it myself last Christmas. I can’t help but feel that this probably explains my absolute adoration for the piece, and also perhaps why I seemed to know the alto part so well last year even though I’d never sung it before! (Or maybe it’s just another strange Laura thing)...

I suppose for me, the beauty in most Christmas music is really in the performance of it. For this reason, I apologise in particular for the version I’m posting of this carol, but it’s one of my absolute favourites and I can hardly hate a Cor Anglais introduction (fondly known as Daddy oboe and another of my instruments but sadly one for which there is very little demand)!

So to the Christmas jazz of which our collection seems to grow with abundance every year. I always feel as though I have been transported to a vintage Christmas - one where I’m pretty convinced Bing Crosby would be sitting in my living room - whenever we're playing some Christmas jazz. I admit we have way too many Christmas jazz CDs and there’s far too much to choose from, so one is a favourite (and the version from the film Elf, who can complain about a bit of Zooey Deschanel?) and the other actually scares me slightly but has to be listened to regardless because it’s still quite entertaining (apologies, really didn’t have many to choose from)

Very aware that this could end up being a horribly rambly, musical-overloady post, so just twooo more that my Christmas wouldn’t be complete without! Got very over-excited (and yes probably a little embarrassing) in Waitrose last year when shopping for roasty things while this one was playing

Barry Rose – Carol Symphony (1991 Digital Remaster): Allegro energico – (the rest of the symphony follows if you’re at all convinced)

And finally, the music I heard tonight in Norwich Castle, exactly 50 years after its premiere performance in the very same venue, the Ceremony of Carols

Sir David Willcocks – A Ceremony of Carols Op. 28: 1. Procession (definitely not complete without the following movements but I didn’t fancy link bombardment!)

A very merry December!

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