In Great Britain Christmas carols are an integral part of Christmas just like plum pudding and turkey, paper crowns and mistletoe. They are sung in all big cathedrals and churches at Christmas, first and foremost in the time-honored chapel of King’s College. The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols- a Christmas mass featuring King’s College Choir, nine short readings and, of course, carols- has been broadcast live on the radio every year since 1928 on Christmas Eve. The a cappella choir SWR Vokalensemble belongs worldwide to the best choirs, renowned mostly for its exquisite performances of modern music. This album however contains traditional, centuries old Christmas Carols, arranged by British composers like Benjamin Britten, Gustav Holst,Read more Ralph Vaughan Williams and William Byrd, to name just a few.
How keenly music’s absence is felt during the pandemic struck me recently listening to this little disc. It is nothing spectacular in terms of programming: an hour’s worth of English Christmas carols. The singing is excellent, done in beautiful sound by the SWR Vokalensemble, about thirty voices in size, under the direction of Marcus Creed. The English pronunciation here is impeccable.