A Classical Christmas Playlist

Everyone loves a good Christmas song. It's probably one of the best ways to get into the Christmas spirit. I love the classics like Last Christmas and Stay Another Day, but I really love the classic classics. Leading up to Christmas my family plays music of all kinds, but when we have Christmas dinner we often put classical Christmas songs on. Here are some of my favourites...

Troika - Prokofiev
I have fond memories of this one. When I was at secondary school, we played this almost every Christmas in concert band. When I played flute I basically had pages and pages of semiquavers where I jumped between two notes and the whole section would get told off for making the snow sound too loud. I also used to take the absolute piss when I was first chair and pick the highest note possible to end on because screw you, I'm going to play a top B flat. When I played bassoon I had the tune and would be having an internal panic because I didn't want to fluff it (I wasn't very good at bassoon). This piece basically emulates a Russian sleigh ride, so can be wonderfully wintery.

Oh Holy Night
Famously featured in Home Alone when Kevin is in the church before the Wet Bandits come to his house. It has the most wonderful crescendo about 2/3 of the way through as the music just swells (depending on which version you listen to). There are so many versions of this song, but I'd go for either an instrumental or a choir. So much better!

Sleigh Ride - Delius
It sounds a bit snobbish but I think this is the more superior Sleigh Ride, over the one by Leroy Anderson. The beginning of this song reminds me of rushing downstairs one winter morning to find that it has snowed over night. It's a really clever piece, and definitely underrated!

The First Noel
Excuse the pun but this one is a bit of a classic really, everyone knows it. As someone who grew up playing in flute choirs, concert bands and orchestras, I feel like I'm well acquainted with Christmas music. I don't know the words to a lot of Christmas songs, but I feel like The First Noel is one of those ones that you just want to belt out at the top of your lungs. Or, if you don't know all the words like me, hum along.

This is a bit of a curve ball, because it's a bit weird! Every year at flute choir we said "let's do Patapan" because it's such an unusual piece, and every year we'd rehearse for hours then give up because the arrangement for flute quartet was just insane. It's a traditional French carol, kind of reminiscent of Little Drummer Boy.

Jesu, Joy of a Man's Desiring - Bach
I can't describe the opening of this piece, other than it's so Bach. This one isn't necessarily a Christmas song, it's often played at weddings and during Easter services, but I associate it with Christmas. There is an arrangement that's much shorter than the full score, by Marriner, and that's the version that I much prefer.

A Vaughan Williams Christmas
Vaughan Williams is a composer famous for this Christmas music, most notably his Fantasia on Christmas Carols. But I want to give an honourable mention to A Vaughan Williams Christmas, arranged by Doug Wagner, because it's another secondary school favourite. A concert band arrangement, I looked it up on Youtube and can't really find a proper recording. But I love it all the same, even if it drove me up the wall when I was at school.

In Dulci Jubilo
Made famous by the Mike Oldfield version, In Dulci Jubilo just makes you feel happy. You kind of just bounce around a bit when it comes on. Or you can go for the choral version. It's a lot more traditional in style but still lovely to listen to. It always reminds me of the 2012 London Olympics because they featured Mike Oldfield playing it, and it sparked me as weird because it wasn't Christmas! Also I feel like every year the Bolton Octagon theatre play it during the intermission of their Christmas play...

To be honest I could probably list loads and loads more, but here are a few to get you started! Do you like classical Christmas music? What're your favourite things to listen to this time of year?

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