The challenge I've always found with Christmas music on CD is that I don't like all of any CD. Every choral carol one has five selections that must have pleased the choirmaster, but which make you want to skid past to the cheerful familiarity of Hark the Herald Angels Sing. They may be tricky/clever/musically intricate, but they're not Christmassy enough. Maybe my tastes aren't refined enough. Hey, I'm allowed! So this house has a pile of Christmas CDs, but cherrypicking is the preference (unless it's Handel's Messiah).
Ah, but between iTunes and the iTunes store, cherrypicking is easier than it's ever been. Forget buying whole CDs - just buy the tracks you like. So between these and the CDs I already have, I assembled a Christmas 2008 playlist. It's a tad eclectic, on reflection, including traditional carols by traditional choirs, crooner Christmas songs (very fifties), Messiah (the Combined Church Choirs CD of highlights) and Frank Kelly's Christmas Countdown (you surely know that one - the Irish monologue spoofing the twelve days of Christmas, which begins, "Dear Nola..."). And a couple of versions of favourite things, because I couldn't decide which to choose. Or because, in the case of In the Bleak Midwinter, Sarah McLachlan's version and the choral version are entirely different from each other and both wonderful.
Ah. All the stuff we like. It's playing now on the iPod dock. And here's a screenshot of most of it...
My favourite Christmas carol is Once in Royal David's City, as sung by King's College Choir. Beginning with a single boy's voice, and building (through every verse, thank you, not abbreviated) to a swelling finish with choir and church and all. Lovely stuff.
It bewilders me at Christmas church services when the minister tries to 'ring the changes' and chooses unfamiliar/lesser known Christmas carols/hymns. Can't they see that people WANT to sing the old favourites that you don't sing at other times of the year. I've been in some Christmas Day services where the singing has been embarrassingly thin because people don't know the hymn or tune. Were it Hark the Herald, or O Little Town of Bethlehem (all theologically sound, as far as I'm aware), the joyful noise would be exactly that. Ah well. Lessons and Carols seems like the best way to construct a Christmas church service, to me. No less powerful for the familiarity of the Bible passages and the music.
What's your favourite Christmas music?
And yes, there are Australian Christmas carols and Christmas songs. Those CDs get played and enjoyed separately to the general list above.