Christmas without music is like a dark night without stars. Christmas with music, though, is good for the soul. Christmas music is definitely one of my favourite things about the season - that, and cooking dishes I don't get to make the rest of the year. Like everyone, I have my favourites, with Gaudete and Gabriel's Message top of my Christmas carol list. And there is nothing better than sitting in front of an open fire in a room lit with candles to listen to Christmas music.
Essential Carols by the Kings College Choir usually starts off my Christmas evening, setting me up for the rest of the holidays.
But there's plenty of Christmas music long before that famous concert on Christmas Eve. Every radio station seems to have a slot for us to listen to Christmas music, for playing the odd carol or two. Old Christmas hits are dug out and played over and over. And carol concerts are very popular in schools and churches.
Carols for a Victorian Christmas
We have the Victorians to thank for bringing Christmas - and Christmas music - back into fashion after decades of neglect and if you'd like to hear what they would have been singing, this CD of Carols for a Victorian Christmas might be a good starting point. It's predominantly a celebration of Christmas. I'm sure you'll recognise many of the songs ...
Christmas Music from Medieval Europe
But Christmas music isn't just about carols. Early Christmas music was essentially church music, designed to accompany the services during advent, to turn minds towards contemplation... I love early music and some of the pieces written for the advent and Christmas services are heartbreakingly beautiful.
Add to this the beautiful voices of Harry Christopher's The Sixteen and you have Christmas Music from Medieval Europe as you won't find it much sweeter anywhere else.
Christmas music might not always be what we expect. I found this on YouTube, a clip from a film called "The Nativity". The story has been retold countless times, and the sound track sounds nothing like the music we all grew up with, but check this out and you know that you listen to Christmas music...