Our favourite Christmas choral pieces

21 December 2021

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and we thought an ideal way to help celebrate was with a selection box of festive choral pieces as recommended by WNO Chorus Master, David Doidge. David is a face you will recognise from many of our digital performances over the past two years, from Méditation from Massenet’s opera Thaïs, to our most recent performance, Cantique de Jean Racine by Fauré, and as Chorus Master is perfectly placed to suggest his favourites:

It almost goes without saying that the list starts with the traditional Austrian carol, Still, Still, Still, in particular the Mack Wilberg arrangement that WNO Chorus and members of the Orchestra recorded together after months apart and which we released online last Christmas. And the reason David chose it?

'I love the simple melody that has been paired with a beautiful, rich, and luscious string accompaniment. It makes the carol seem so ethereal and other-worldly, and really tugs at the heartstrings.’

His next recommendation is Somewhere in My Memory by John Williams, from the feature film Home Alone – a more modern choice, but a Christmas classic nonetheless:

‘Again, a great melody and it has all the musical ingredients to make one feel very Christmassy. There’s something really moving about hearing children’s voices in anything, but especially a choral setting like this where the message here is one of hope.’

Gaudete, the sacred Christmas carol believed to date back to the 16th century, is another favourite:

'There are many arrangements of this, but I like the simplest, where the voices move together, such as Michael McGlynn’s. I love the way this piece lilts and has a really uplifting sentiment. The Latin text also adds real bite and colour to the texture, which can be really exciting when sung well.’

David has included another traditional carol concert stalwart, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, because, as he puts it:

‘There is nothing more amazing than opening up that Carols for Choirs book and getting everyone to sing this. The final verse with the descant is so powerful and uplifting; it is one of the best carols out there in my opinion. This captures the true spirit of Christmas and it is timeless.’

O Holy Night is David’s final favourite:

‘I don’t think Christmas would be Christmas without this glorious piece of music. Again, there are so many arrangements and I have no particular favourite, but this works well in many formats, especially for a choir. It is a brilliant tune that makes such an impact when the chorus arrives, and I love the way it starts so gently and then rises to its climax which just leaves me wanting to hear it again’

In another year when WNO are unable to warm you with a Christmas Celebration Concert, we hope you enjoy listening to any or all of the above this festive season and we look forward to welcoming you back in the new year – Merry Christmas!