Angels We Have Heard on High: Although this carol is an old French melody, it was also sung by the Westminster Abby choir. Here the piece is re-harmonized with the form being extended.
What Child is This: This tune dating back to the 1500’s was referred to by Shakespeare as being one of the most popular of his day. Over time there have been slight variations in the melody as well as with the form.
Mary’s Boy Child: The Jamaican style carol recorded by Harry Belafonte became very popular in England. Here it is presented in a new-style calypso feel.
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day: The words for this carol were written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the Civil War and provided hope for many during one of America’s darkest periods. Originally sung to a different melody, this recording features a more recent John Marks melody.
Carol of the Bells: This lovely Ukrainian melody has reached a new level of popularity with the young listener due to its use in the popular movie Home Alone.
Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella: Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, has strongly influenced the celebration of Christmas in southern European regions with torch light processions. Here the piece is given a light jazz-waltz treatment.
We Three Kings: In 1857 John Hopkins of Vermont used ancient musical styles to portray the biblical Magi that arrived the twelfth night after Christmas. Some editors feel the melody might be “medieval anon” crediting Hopkins as the arranger. The atmosphere and percussive qualities it receives here give it an oriental, Middle Eastern feel.
I saw Three Ships Come Sailing In: This is one of the oldest, 500 years, and best beloved English carols because ships play an important part in the lives of people who reside close to the sea.
Here We Come A-Wassailing: In the tradition of Christmas hospitality, empty cups were carried from door to door to obtain wassail, a drink made from apples. Wassailing has been replaced by caroling.
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence: Keeping in the tradition of Picardy, this minor French melody ends with a major third.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel: This ninth century ancient plainsong written in the first Gregorian mode is used throughout Advent. One month before Christmas the abbots in medieval monasteries would intone the melody at vespers with monks chanting additional versus until Christmas.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing: In 1840 Felix Mendelssohn had no idea he had composed one of the most beloved Christmas carols of all time. It was originally part of a cantata written in honor of John Gutenberg and the invention of printing.
As Mendelssohn himself said, “It will never do to sacred words. There must be a national and merry subject found out, to which the soldier-like motion of the piece has some relation.”
Winter Wonderland: Here is an offering to the more secular side of Christmas done with an easy swing feel.
The little Drummer Boy: The mood is set for this piece with an ethnic drum ensemble that gives this quaint melody a “world-beat” sound.