Advent Calendar Day 13: The Crown of Roses (Tchaikovsky)

From one rose to another, and this is a very suitable rose for a Friday, since this carol for Advent has a bit of a Good Fridayish tinge to it.

I first sang this in a school choir in Grade 6 or so, which means that it is embedded in my memory for life.    Though I always thought it was for Easter until I kept on finding it in Christmas Carol anthologies.  Then again, Lent and Advent have a similar (purple!) tinge, to my mind.  (I also can’t help thinking whenever I hear this at Christmas that *of course* it’s a Russian composer who thinks about Christmas and goes straight to the crown of thorns imagery.)

I particularly want to mention the choir in this recording, because their sound is really fantastic – very rich, and perfect for the lushness of Tchaikovsky’s harmonies. The choir of King’s College Cambridge is always excellent, but I think this particular recording is outstanding even for them. And the tenor section is in particularly beautiful voice.


Advent Calender Day 1: Matin Responsory (Palestrina)

It’s December, which means it’s time for an Advent Calendar!  Since I’m still a church music girl at heart, and since all the very best carols are more about Advent than Christmas itself, we’re going to have an Advent Carol – or something like one – every day from now to Christmas.  Strictly no Rudolph allowed.  I hope you enjoy!

Some Palestrina to start the season.

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Advent Calendar Day 25 – MERRY CHRISTMAS

Huzzah! I survived a midnight mass as the lone soprano in descant hell – and I still have my vocal chords!!

I’ve been trying to figure out all day what I can possibly use for tonight’s carol. You see, I did all my favourite Midnight Mass ones last year, and it seems like cheating to repeat them. And then, I haven’t done The Holly And The Ivy this year, which is really a favourite of mine, but doesn’t seem to have the joyfulness required of a Christmas Day carol. And I want to do ‘Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day’ again, but I think we all know why I shouldn’t.

Now we’re all going to have to go back and listen to those ones, aren’t we?

Right then. Like last year, I’ll celebrate Christmas with a trio (a Trinity?) of Christmas Carols that fit my mood. The first is a Mediaeval Baebes version of a medieval carol – Ecce Mundi Gaudium. I love the vibrance and energy of this, and the sense of joy, and just the general bounciness of it.

The second carol I’m sharing with you is Past Three O’Clock, which I sincerely hope it will *not* be by the time I click ‘post’ on this entry. It never gets sung at midnight mass (too early in the evening, perhaps?), but it speaks to me of the whole getting up in the middle of the night to go to church, or possibly the manger, on Christmas Eve. Also, infidel choristers find the whole bit about cheese from the dairy / bring they for Mary vastly amusing.

Finally, a carol I’d forgotten until recently but remember vividly from my shopping centre carolling days as an undergraduate – The Shepherd’s Farewell, by Berlioz, affectionately known as ‘Carols on Acid’ because it’s kind of trippy and changes key twice a bar. Actually, I was told recently that Berlioz was rather fond of his opium, so perhaps the trippiness wasn’t just in our undergraduate minds.

I was going to stop there, but after singing all those descants tonight I can’t possibly end without a descanty one, now can I? I wanted to include the diabolical descant from Christians, Awake!, but apparently we are the only people insane enough to make sopranos sing top B flats at one in the morning. So here’s a recording of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, which is a fitting carol to end with, being the first carol I sing every year. This is the first carol in my work choir’s carol book, and we use it as our warm up, though we go a lot faster than this and we do not do the mad descant, because it actually requires a bass section, which we don’t usually have. You have to love a descant that involves the altos, too. Or at least, I have to love it.

Time to sign off from this year’s Advent Calendar, I think.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!