Holiday Issue 2015

Some alternative Holiday tunes

Carols like “Silent Night,” “Deck the Halls,” and “Hark! The Herald Madison StowersAngels Sing” are staples of the holiday season. The catalog of Christmas carols, however, expands much farther than the familiar standards. There are many lesser-known carols, sung around the world, that are equally as uplifting and festive as the classics.

A Spotless Rose

This version of the carol, arranged by Herbert Howells in 1919, originates from the German hymn “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen.” The text dates back to the 14th century, and was translated to English by Catherine Winkworth in 1869. Howell’s arrangement is lush and melodious; today, it remains popular across Europe. 

Legenda (The Crown of Roses) Op. 54, No. 5

Composed by Tchaikovsky in 1883, this choral arrangement appears in the composer’s 16 Songs for Children. The Russian text originates from the homonymous poem penned by Aleksey Pleshcheyev in 1877. This performance by The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge features an English translation by Geoffrey Dearmer. Written in E minor, the piece is exceptionally powerful and dramatic.

A Hymn to the Virgin

One of England’s most famous composers, Benjamin Britten wrote “A Hymn to the Virgin” at the age of 16. The anonymous text contains both English and Latin.

A Great and Mighty Wonder

In 734, St. Germanus I of Constantinople wrote the Greek hymn “Μέγα καί παράδοξον θαυμα.” This text was later translated to English by John Mason Neale in 1862. Neale’s translation is often paired with the musical composition written by Michael Praetorius in 1609. James Whitbourn’s arrangement in this performance is both inspiring and harmonious.

The Cherry Tree Carol

This medieval carol first appeared in Britain in the 1400s, where it was performed during the Feast of Corpus Christi. In its modern incarnation, it exists as an amalgam of three other carols.

Once in Royal David’s City

Carol F. Alexander wrote “Once in Royal David’s City” as a poem in 1848. Later, Henry John Gauntlett set the text to music. The carol is famous for serving as the processional hymn for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, a Christmas Eve service held at the King’s College Chapel in Cambridge.

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