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Classical Notes

Christmas List

Posted at 4:02 PM on December 12, 2008 by Rex Levang (4 Comments)

BBC Music, which logically enough is the music magazine of the BBC, has released its list of the 50 top Christmas carols.

The results seem pretty odd, at least to this American reader. Here are their Top Five, and nary a Silent Night or Hark the Herald in the bunch:

1. In the Bleak Midwinter (Harold Darke)
2. In Dulci Jubilo
3. A Spotless Rose
4. Bethlehem Down
5. Coventry Carol

The list was selected by a group of mostly British choral conductors, which might explain why the list is British-centric. And they may have been thinking more about pieces that their choirs sing in concerts and services, and not so much about broad popularity.

I've searched for an online version, with no luck--maybe a better Googler than I can find the link. (It's the December 2008 issue.) Meanwhile, you can read and hear a bit of the Top 5 here.

Any favorite carols you'd like to weigh in on?

Comments (4)

"American readers" in this forum will not find these selections odd at all - just look at the playlists of all your Christmas specials! No doubt many already been spending at least part of their time caroling from the Oxford Book of Carols and other non-top-10 sources. Sure, the malls shower us with sappy "Little Drummer Boy" garbage, but fortunately there are other sources like yours!

Posted by horsebassoon | December 12, 2008 5:35 PM

In America, carols are very popular as congregational hymns. We have our favorites there, but they are, for the most part, simpler and from the 19th century. But in England, the big thing is the "Carol Service", with the congregation being more of an audience and choirs rendering some of the most beautiful Christmas music anywhere! One of my favorites that is missing from the top five is Walford Davies' version of "O Little Town of Bethlehem", which gives a much more fitting flow to the familiar words than either "Forest Green" or our purely American favorite "St. Louis".

Posted by Stephen M. Collins | December 12, 2008 10:42 PM

The complete list is in this article:


Happy carolling!

Posted by Greg M. | December 14, 2008 7:52 AM

There is so much great Christmas music out there -- how can I decide?!? I'd need to think about my top 10, but I know 3 that would certainly be on the list.

1. I dearly love the chant "Of the Father's Heart [Love] Begotten", and have even learned some of the original Latin verses. Such a soaring joy for life and Creation is in that melody; I get choked up every time! 2. A season of Christmas music without "I Wonder as I Wander" would just not be right -- in a spare arrangement, or ideally with only a single, plaintive baritone or mezzo voice calling out to whomever will listen. 3. A favorite old German carol of mine is "Es ist ein Ros' Entsprungen", or "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming". The music by Michael Praetorius is just gorgeous.

Posted by George M. Calger | December 16, 2008 11:25 AM