It's that time of year when, should you venture into a shopping mall or supermarket, you will be bombarded with Christmas music. Similarly the radio stations be increasingly groaning with Christmas tunes. Now, I like Christmas music. And I can't be humbuggy enough to point out that it's currently Advent, and Christmas doesn't start until December 25th. For some reason, Christmas music is all about anticipation. But I just wish they pumped out a bit more variety.
There are about 10 Christmas carols and 10 Christmas songs (please, not Slade!) that will get circulated over and over again. But it really doesn't have to be like this. I try to buy myself a new CD of Christmas carols every year, and this year went for this one - Fear and Rejoice, O People. It's mostly quite modern stuff (in the sense of post 1900), but nothing too weird.
There's a good mix of really top notch numbers, from the moving Howells Sing Lullaby that opens the disc to Tavener's hypnotic A Hymn to the Mother of God at the end. Generally the performances from St John's College Cambridge under Christopher Robinson are excellent, though the solo trebles are perhaps lacking in a little welly. The inevitable Rutter is one of his most subtle, There is a flower. There are two of Robinson's own carols - I preferred his traditional Hereford Carol, though Fear and Rejoice is interesting. Two lesser known treats are Geraint Lewis's Howells-like A little hymn to Mary and Arthur Oldham's Remember, O thou man, which has become one of my favourite choir carols since singing it at the Oxford University Physics Department Carol Service a couple of years ago.
Overall I really liked it. You can hear samples of the tracks at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. If you want to stretch your Christmas music experience there's a whole range of recommended CDs here, from traditional carols to quite challenging modern stuff.