You know those $5 bins of CDs they have at Walmart? I always take a peek in the Christmas bin in case there’s a gem in there I don’t have yet.
This year I treated myself to Sarah McLachlin’s The Classic Christmas Album, and I am obsessed with it. I’ve listened to it every day since mid-November. It is so good, and it is not your typical Christmas album, though there are many classics on it. It’s her more unusual choices that blow me away. Her version of Prayer of St. Francis moves me to tears, as does her rendition of River, Joni Mitchell’s haunting and depressing winter song (can’t really call it a Christmas song).
I’ve written about my favorite Christmas CDs before, and I don’t want to repeat, but there are a couple I could add to the list, as well as the Sarah McLachlan one.
About 20 years ago I was wandering around the mall at Christmas time (Remember malls? That same mall is dead now. Sigh.) and a gift store was beautifully decorated for the holidays, and the most beautiful music was playing—hammered dulcimer, mandolin, fiddle, recorder, harp. I commented on it, and the salesperson showed me the CD they were playing, which I promptly bought: Colonial Holiday. My husband spins wool into yarn on a spinning wheel, and he likes to spin with this CD playing.
Speaking of instruments you don’t hear every day, how about handbells? The Magic of the Bells was recorded in 1996 by the French ringers known as Les Sonneurs. It contains some carols and other stuff, like a couple of Lennon/McCartney songs.
And, yes, this is repeating, but I absolutely love Mary, Did You Know from Pentatonix’s That’s Christmas to Me:
I used to be an elementary general music teacher, and every year we would have a winter concert, and I would cram in as many Kwanzaa, Channukah, winter and generic holiday songs, and Christmas carols as I could. My ten most favorite carols (most going back to my own childhood) are:
- O Holy Night (I had a Jewish principal who requested it every year. “Can we do the one that goes, ‘Fall on your knees…?’”)
- Breath of Heaven
- I Saw Three Ships
- O Come, O Come Emmanuel (technically an Advent song)
- Carol of the Bells
- Coventry Carol
- We Three Kings
- Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella
- Joy to the World (technically a Second Coming song)
- Silent Night
What about you? Is there special music you like to listen to (or sing) during the holidays? What are your favorite carols? Share in the comments below.