From Wassails to Wexford: The Best Classic Christmas Albums of 2021 | Classical music


AIt’s sure that the first cuckoo clock arrives in the spring, so the first festive CD arrives around mid-August. By usual standards, this year’s Christmas pile is small, but the quality is high. The offerings of the collegiate choir, upset by the impossibility of practicing in confinement, are mostly absent. An exception are these pillars of Nine Lessons and Carols, the King’s College Choir, Cambridge, directed by Daniel Hyde. Their In the middle of the gloomy winter has a peculiarity: for once, men and boys sing in an empty resonating chapel, without the acoustic mitt of a congregation. Greatness is achieved by the organ, played by Matthew Martin. It’s the choice for anyone who wants Christmas carols they recognize. A solid alternative is the newly trained adult Belfast Cathedral Choir in their first album for Resonus, Christmas in Belfast: First-class vocals, conducted by Matthew Owens, in selections by Philip Ledger, John Rutter, Elizabeth Poston and others. In addition, Owens recorded Christmas bells: organ music from Belfast Cathedral.

the sixteen‘s singing bells lives up to the band’s usual impeccable standards under the guidance of its director, Harry Christophers, who has crafted a clever musical recipe that sounds warmly festive but avoids the obvious. With five traditional Christmas carols interspersed (Wassail Song, All in the Morning), the record opens and ends with Pilgrim Jesus and Advent Antiphons by one of the UK’s best living choral composers, Bob Chilcott. Other pieces in this largely contemporary collection include the popular title piece, Carol of the Bells (as heard in the film Alone at home), by Mykola Leontovych, Lux aurumque by Eric Whitacre and Of a Rose by Cecilia McDowall.

The immediate and vigorous energy of Apollo5, member of the Voces8 Foundation, shines with its eclecticism A deep but dazzling darkness, with music from William Byrd to William Walton, Herbert Howells and Dobrinka Tabakova: expert vocals, unexpected choices, with some subtle arrangements made especially for this intimate ensemble. An Elizabethan Christmas by the viol consort fretwork, with mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston, is a leisurely and joyful exploration of domestic music from the time of Elizabeth I and James I, by Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Weelkes and more.

Love descended on Christmas offers treble duets of Myron and Archie, the second album for teenagers: unusual arrangements, wonderfully sung, for the benefit of an important cause, childhood cancer. Strange Wonders: The Songs of Wexford Vol II is the singer-arranger suite Caitriona O’LearyThe highly successful 2014 Irish music album, performed by a leading lineup including vocal group Stile Antico, trumpeter Alison Balsom and violinist and folk singer Seth Lakeman.

Like that, by the small folk-choral collective Circle, escapes into her own sonic universe through ancient and modern traditions, featuring Senegalese kora player Kadialy Kouyate and an appearance by countertenor James Bowman. The six versatile singers also play cornet, nyckelharpa, recorder, percussion and keyboards. The permanent atmosphere of this album, which many of us can welcome at this time of year, is serenity.


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