The first 6 days have been filled mostly with actual “thorough-composed” works for Christmastide, such as Cantatas for church, oratorios, and the like. For these next two days, I have selected 2 albums that are more “collections” or “compilations” of carols, done in a tasteful way. Of course, you should still be listening to the Bach Christmas Oratorio throughout the 12 days!
Day 7 (Dec. 31st): Noels & Carols From The Olde World, by Apollo’s Fire. This album is extremely charming, with some great takes on tunes such as “Fum, Fum, Fum,” “I Saw Three Ships,” and many others. This entire album is actually free on YouTube thanks to Apollo’s Fire, one of the great American period instrument ensembles, based in Cleveland. If you don’t know their work, now is as good of time as any, starting with this evocative album.
Day 8 (Jan. 1st): Christmas Star: Carols for the Christmas Season, Rutter and the Cambridge Singers. This album is beautifully done, even if it is a bit of your typical “warm and fuzzy choir” album. Some of the arrangements are quite good, especially the Baroque-ish take on “Joy to the World” in the style of Handel, and “O Come All Ye Faithful” is quite powerful. If you like Christmas carols, and/or the English choral tradition, you can sing along with much of this album, as my wife and I did on an 8 hour car trip one Christmastide. These arrangements are exceedingly popular in the English speaking world, especially at orchestra Christmas concerts (been there done that). The entire album is fairly inexpensive and can purchased here. Below is the aforementioned “Joy to the World” which is probably my favorite arrangement of that hymn/carol.
Special Note (Bonus listening): January 1st is also the Holy Name Day and Circumcision of Jesus in the Church Calendar, and J.S. Bach wrote an outstanding cantata (of course) to celebrate this day: BWV 190, “Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied.” Here is a translation, and enjoy the festive trumpets!