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Best Loved Christmas Carols / King's College Choir


Release Date: 10/05/2004 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 86121   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Henry John GauntlettTraditionalBoris OrdHenry Walford Davies,   ... 
Performer:  Ian HareFrancis GrierGareth MorrellJohn [classical organ] Wells,   ... 
Conductor:  Sir David WillcocksSir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College ChoirPhilip Jones Brass Ensemble
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 24 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


Special price - 2 CDs for the price of 1

The Choir of the King’s College, Cambridge has a rich tradition of recorded Christmas music on EMI Classics dating back to the 1960’s. They have recorded the Ceremony of Lessons and Carols several times and a ‘Live’ performance broadcast of this ceremony on National Public Radio has become an annual event. It is with great pleasure and in the spirit of Christmas that EMI Classics offers Best Loved Christmas Carols, an all new compilation featuring the most popular Christmas carols from the choir’s catalogue in a new special 2 CD package.

R E V I E W S

On these two discs Christmas music
Read more lovers will find 50 selections taken from recordings made by the famed Choir of King's College, Cambridge between the years 1964-1979. They are representative of the repertoire performed at the choir's legendary Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols services, including many of the "Green" and "Orange" Oxford carol-book pieces so loved by choral singers everywhere. Beginning with (what else?) a solo boy's voice intoning the first verse of "Once in royal David's city" and building to the full choir and organ verses as the singers process to the front of the chapel, we're taken on a memorable journey, reliving such classics as Boris Ord's setting of "Adam lay ybounden", Herbert Howells' "A Spotless Rose", numerous David Willcocks carol arrangements, Harold Darke's "In the bleak midwinter", Elizabeth Poston's "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree", and the Cornelius/Atkins "The Three Kings". Disc 2 offers both older works (Sweelinck, Gibbons, Weelkes) as well as new settings of old texts (Ledger's "Chester Carol", Mathias' "A Babe is born", Willcocks' "O come, O come, Emmanuel", Poston's "Angelus ad virginem", and Patrick Hadley's exquisite, ethereal "I sing of a maiden").

Not surprisingly, the choir's sound and performance standard are very consistent from year to year, although certain pieces are not as polished nor as carefully balanced as the rest, examples being "Whence is that goodly fragrance?" and (for some reason) the early works by Gibbons and Weelkes. There also are some noticeable edits (the end of the Hadley, for example), and extreme resonance and distance muddies detail on a few of the tracks. The Sweelinck is on the sluggish side, as is the Basque tune known as "Gabriel's Message"--but most of the singing is characterized by the crisp articulation, energetic expression, and full-bodied sound (with brilliant treble and rich-sounding men's voices) we've come to expect, whether a cappella or joined by organ or brass (especially effective in Willcocks' arrangement of "O come, all ye faithful").

King's fans will have most or all of these selections on various other recordings, but for completists, for those looking for a reasonable sampling of this choir's unequalled Christmas music tradition, or for listeners who just want some really fine choral music to play for the holidays, this set will give more than two hours of pure pleasure. In the years since these recordings were made, dozens of choirs have recorded these same works, some in better performances (including King's), many in superior sound--but no choir is more closely associated with this repertoire (indeed, its directors created, arranged, or commissioned much of it), and thus it demands a place in every Christmas CD library.

--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1. Once in Royal David's City by Henry John Gauntlett
Performer:  Ian Hare (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 19th Century; England 
Notes: Arranger: Sir David Willcocks. 
2. Angels from the realms of glory by Traditional
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Written: France 
Notes: Arranger: Sir Philip Ledger. 
3. Adam lay ybounden by Boris Ord
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; England 
4. O little town of Bethlehem by Henry Walford Davies
Performer:  Francis Grier (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Notes: Arranger: Sir Philip Ledger. 
5. In dulci jubilo by Traditional
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Medieval 
Written: 12th Century; Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Robert Lucas Pearsall. 
6. The first nowell by Traditional
Performer:  Francis Grier (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Written: England 
Notes: Arrangers: John Stainer; Sir Philip Ledger. 
7. I saw three ships by Traditional
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Written: England 
Notes: Arranger: Sir Philip Ledger. 
8. Whence is that goodly Fragrance by Traditional
Performer:  Ian Hare (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Notes: Arranger: Sir David Willcocks. 
9. Quem pastores laudavere by Traditional
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Medieval 
Written: 14th Century 
Notes: Arranger: John Rutter. 
10. Personent hodie, H 135 no 2 by Gustav Holst
Performer:  Ian Hare (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: ?1916-17; England 
11. The holly and the ivy by Henry Walford Davies
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
12. Carol-Anthems (3) for Chorus: no 2, A spotless rose by Herbert Howells
Performer:  Gareth Morrell (Baritone)
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918-1920; England 
13. Away in a manger by William J. Kirkpatrick
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Notes: Arranger: Sir Philip Ledger. 
14. While shepherds watched their flocks by night by Traditional
Performer:  John [classical organ] Wells (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1592; England 
Notes: Arranger: Sir David Willcocks. 
15. Tomorrow shall be my dancing day by Traditional
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; England 
Notes: Arranger: Sir David Willcocks. 
16. Up! Good Christian folk, and listen by Traditional
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Notes: Arranger: George Ratcliffe Woodward. 
17. In the bleak mid-winter by Harold Edwin Darke
Performer:  John [classical organ] Wells (Organ), Stephen Varcoe (Baritone)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; England 
18. Ding Dong! Merrily on high by Traditional
Performer:  John [classical organ] Wells (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; France 
Notes: Arranger: Sir David Willcocks.
This selection is based on the tune "Branle l'officiel" from Thoinot
Arbeau's "Orchésographie". 
19. Silent Night by Franz Xaver Gruber
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Classical 
Written: 1818; Austria 
Notes: Arranger: Sir Philip Ledger. 
20. Sacred Partsongs (5): no 1, It came upon the midnight clear [not a setting of the hymn tune "Noel"] by Arthur Sullivan
Performer:  John [classical organ] Wells (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Notes: Arranger: Sir David Willcocks. 
21. I saw a maiden by Traditional
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Notes: Arranger: Edgar Pettman. 
22. On Christmas Night "Sussex Carol" by Traditional
Performer:  Thomas Trotter (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Written: England 
Notes: Arranger: Sir Philip Ledger. 
23. Adeste fideles "O come, all ye faithful" by John Francis Wade
Performer:  Ian Hare (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philip Jones Brass Ensemble,  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1782; England 
Notes: Arrangers: Sir David Willcocks; Frederick Oakeley. 
24. Festgesang "Hark! The herald angels sing" by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Ian Hare (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philip Jones Brass Ensemble,  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Germany 
Notes: Arrangers: Sir David Willcocks; W.H. Cummings. 
25. I look from afar by Giovanni Palestrina
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; Italy 
26. I wonder as I wander by John Jacob Niles
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Notes: Arranger: Andrew Carter. 
27. Cherry Tree Carol by Traditional
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Written: England 
Notes: Arranger: Sir David Willcocks. 
28. Gabriel's message by Traditional
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Written: Basque Provinces 
Notes: Arranger: Edgar Pettman. 
29. Chester Carol by Traditional
Performer:  Thomas Trotter (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 1425 
Notes: Arranger: Sir Philip Ledger. 
30. A maiden most gentle by Andrew Carter
Performer:  Thomas Trotter (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1978; England 
31. I sing of a maiden by Patrick Hadley
Performer:  Francis Grier (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1936; England 
32. Myn lyking by Richard Runciman Terry
Performer:  Ian Hare (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
33. O come, O come Emmanuel by Traditional
Performer:  Ian Hare (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; France 
Notes: Arranger: Sir David Willcocks. 
34. A child is born in Bethlehem by Traditional
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Written: Denmark 
Notes: Arranger: Sir David Willcocks. 
35. Hodie Christus natus est by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: Netherlands 
36. Hosanna to the Son of David by Orlando Gibbons
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 17th Century; England 
37. Gloria in excelsis Deo by Thomas Weelkes
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
38. Maria wallt zum heiligtum by Johannes Eccard
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: Germany 
39. Angelus ad Virginem by Anonymous
Performer:  Sir Andrew Davis (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Medieval 
Written: 13th Century; England 
Notes: Arranger: Elisabeth Poston. 
40. Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! by Dame Elizabeth Maconchy
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
41. Jesus Christ the Apple Tree by Elisabeth Poston
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; England 
42. That Lord that Lay in Assë Stall by Imogen Holst
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
43. In dulci jubilo, BWV 368 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: Germany 
44. In dulci jubilo, BWV 729 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Sir David Willcocks (Organ)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; ?Weimar, Germany 
45. Weihnachtslieder (6), Op. 8: no 3, Die Könige by Peter Cornelius
Performer:  Stephen Varcoe (Baritone)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856/1870; Weimar, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Ivor Atkins. 
46. Come, thou Redeemer of the Earth by Michael Praetorius
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: Germany 
Notes: Arranger: George Ratcliffe Woodward. 
47. A babe is born, Op. 55 by William Mathias
Performer:  Thomas Trotter (Organ)
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971; Wales, UK 

Sound Samples

Once in royal David's city (harm. A. H. Mann; descant Willcocks)
Angels, from the realms of glory
Adam lay ybounden
O little town of Bethlehem (v.3 arr. Ledger)
In dulci jubilo
The First Nowell
I saw three ships (arr. Ledger)
Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing?
Quem pastores laudavere (unaccomp. version)
Personent hodie
The Holly and the Ivy
A Spotless Rose
Away in a Manger
While shepherds watched (Este's Psalter, 1592; descant Willcocks)
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day
Up! good Christen folk and listen
In the bleak mid-winter
Ding dong! merrily on high (arr. Willcocks)
Silent Night
It came upon the midnight clear (adapted & arr. Sullivan; descant Willcocks)
Weihnachtslieder Op. 8: The Three Kings
I saw a maiden
Sussex Carol (On Christmas night all Christians sing)
O come, all ye faithful
Hark! the herald angels sing
Matin Responsory: I look from afar
Come, thou Redeemer of the earth (Veni, Redemptor gentium)
I wonder as I wander
The Cherry Tree Carol
Gabriel's Message
Sussex Carol (On Christmas night all Christians sing)
Stille Nacht!
Chester Carol (Maker of the heavens fair)
A Babe is born Op. 53
A maiden most gentle
I sing of a maiden
Myn Lyking
O come, O come, Emmanuel
A child is born in Bethlehem [Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem]
Hodie Christus natus est (Cantiones sacrae a 5, 1619)
Hosanna to the son of David
Gloria in excelsis Deo
When to the temple Mary went [Maria, das Jungfräulein, ihr liebes Jesulein]
Angelus ad virginem
Angelus ad virginem
Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!
Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
That Lord that lay in assë stall
Chorales & chorale preludes for Advent & Christmas (1989 Digital Remaster), In dulci jubilo: Chorale BWV368 [unaccomp.]
Chorales & chorale preludes for Advent & Christmas (1989 Digital Remaster), In dulci jubilo: Chorale prelude BWV729

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