Thursday, December 22, 2011

Michael5000's Nine Best Lists of Christmas Carols

Four Christmas Carols That Sound Different in the United States and England

"Angels from the Realms of Glory"
"Away in a Manger"
“O Little Town of Bethlehem”
"While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night"

Three Christmas Carols That Have Swoopy Arpeggios

"Angels We Have Heard on High"
"Carol of the Bells"
"Ding Dong Merrily on High"

Eight Christmas Songs That Arguably Suffer from a Surfeit of Repetition

"Deck the Halls"
"Do You Hear What I Hear?"
"The First Noël"
"Here We Come A-Wassailing"
"The Little Drummer Boy"
“(Simply Having) a Wonderful Christmastime”
"The Twelve Days of Christmas"
"We Wish You a Merry Christmas"

Six Popular Christmas Songs That Lose a Little Something By the Time You Have Your Permanent Teeth

"Frosty the Snowman"
"It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas"
"Jingle Bells"
"Let It Snow"
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
"Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"

Six Remarkably Well-Written Popular Christmas Songs

“Baby It’s Cold Outside”
"Blue Christmas"
"The Christmas Song"
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
"I'll Be Home for Christmas"
“The Happiest Christmas”

Five Popular Christmas Songs That Work Best if Belted Out by a Performer Who Is All Lit Up Like a Christmas Tree*

“(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays”
“The Secret of Christmas”
"Silver Bells"
"White Christmas"
"Winter Wonderland"

*This is also true of several songs on other lists.

Thirteen Awesome Carols That Get Medieval* On Your Christmas

“Adeste Fidelius” (“O Come All Ye Faithful”)
"The Coventry Carol"
"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"
"The Holly and the Ivy"
"I Saw Three Ships"
"In Dulci Jubilo" (“Good Christian Men Rejoice”)
"Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming"
"O Come O Come Emanuel”
“O Sanctissima”
“The Sussex Carol" ("On Christmas Night All Christians Sing")
“Ther is No Rose of Swych Vertu”
“Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle”
"The Wexford Carol" ("Good People All, This Christmastide")

*or come from so deep in the folk tradition that nobody really knows their origins 

Seven Pretty Sweet Christmas Carols From the Nineteenth Century

"Good King Wenceslas"
"It Came Upon the Midnight Clear"
"O Holy Night"
"Once in Royal David's City"
"Past Three O'Clock"
"Silent Night"
"We Three Kings of Orient Are"

Five Christmas Carols That Were Composed by, Like, Composers

“Ave Maria” (Schubert)
"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" (Mendelssohn)
"In the Bleak Midwinter" (Holst)
“O Jesu So Meek” (Bach)
“Panis Angelicus” (Franck)


Jenners said...

I really cannot say that "Here We Come A-Wassailing" has suffered from repetition for me. I hardly ever hear it.

Michael5000 said...

Jenners: I'm talking about repetition WITHIN the song. Like the stirring chorus "Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!"

gl. said...

i play the little drummer boy game

this year i lost just this tuesday. curse you, safeway!

Ben said...

"Six Popular Christmas Songs That Lose a Little Something by the Time You Have Your Permanent Teeth": What about including "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth"?

Michael5000 said...

Ben: All too apt. Also a good candidate for "surfeit of repetition."

dhkendall said...

And why isn't "What Child Is This?" not on the Medieval list? The melody is "Greensleeves" for pete's sake, a medieval tune if there ever was one!

Michael5000 said...

Yeah, but the words are tacked-on 19th Century if I recall correctly. I hope you aren't expecting any of the lists to be comprehensive...

UnwiseOwl said...

UnwiseOwl's list of carols that have a really boring Tenor part:
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Once in Royal David's City
O, Holy Night

UnwiseOwl said...

Hrmm, you can add "Oh come..." to that list too. Hoorah for a christmas not spent in a choir.

Ben said...

Echoing dhkendall's comment:

"Good King Wenceslas" is apparently another example of a very old tune (13th century, I believe) that had the words we know put to it in the 19th century. I heard this story on All Things Considered on my way home last night:

Michael5000 said...

Ben: Yep. "At least 15th Century," I think my "New Oxford Book of Carols" said.

I tried to keep the Medieval list for songs where words and music both go back into the folk tradition. It's tricky, though, because most of them "first appeared" when a publisher or musicologist put them to the page in the 18th or 19th Century, so with a lot of the songs nobody really knows exactly WHEN people started singing them. You have to think they all must have evolved a lot from year to year in early days.