Here are 9 carols for Advent or Christmas that should be on the listening list for anyone who loves choral music. This list is incomplete – in truth the list is several hundred works long, and maybe longer if we put some serious thought into it. But if I had to choose 9, I’d have trouble getting past these ones. They are on a playlist at the top here (thanks Mr. Seagram!) or you can follow along one by one.
So without further ado, here are 9 pieces I think are great, unsullied by lessons.
9. O Magnum Mysterium, by Ola Gjeilo. A wonderful, emotional piece. It takes a cold heart not to feel the gentle warmth behind this music.
8. The Three Kings by Jonathan Dove. One of my favorites as a performer, it has almost everything that I would hope for.
7. Hodie, Christus Natus Est by Palestrina. This is a party piece most choirs can do. Even a highschool choir can do it, and its just a fantastically well written piece. I can’t find a good video of this, which is a crime. Someone should get on that. But folks, it is so good that it made the list WITHOUT a video.
6. Illuminare Jerusalem by Judith Weir. I just love old english, and this piece really scratches that itch for me. It’s also fantastic in an acoustic, dark/bright and damp and mysterious.
5. Adam Lay-y Bounden by Adam Larkin. This is not such a well known piece perhaps, but unjustly so. The word I’d use for this is shapely, this piece uses shape in an exquisite way.
4. The Little Road to Bethlehem by Michael Head. Along with Quilter, Finzi, and Vaughn Williams, Michael Head defined the English Art Song. And this one is very, very special.
3. Ave Maria by Felix Mendelssohn – Perhaps one of the most satisfying emotional experiences ever. Anyone who really opens to this experience is never disappointed.
2. Nesciens Mater by Jean Mouton. I can’t say much about perfection. Just listen.
1. The All-Night Vigil (also called the Vespers) by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Ok, I can’t choose all of it (which I was tempted to do) but here is a fantastic rendition of the third movement. Best Alto Choral Solo Ever.