Monday, December 15, 2008

My Top 10 Christmas Carols: No 10

10. The Truth From Above: Ralph Vaughan Williams

Okay, there will still be some politics on this blog over the next fortnight...but in the run-up to Christmas I'm going to be giving over some time and space to one of my other lifelong obsessions: English choral music.

When most people speak of "Christmas carols" they tend to mean the likes of Hark the Herald, Once in Royal, O Come All ye Faithful and so on, but technically speaking they are hymns. Carols, in the traditional sense as still preserved in the service of Nine Lessons and Carols, are sung by the Choir, not the congregation.

So over the next 10 days I will be listing my top 10 carols, together with YouTube videos of each. I hope that those who are familiar with this genre of music will enjoy this diversion from the usual agenda, and that those who are not familiar with it will also give them a listen. My No 1 choice will be revealed on Christmas Eve.

The first of my choices, at No 10, is The Truth From Above. This was one of the many traditional English folk tunes, their origins lost in the mists of antiquity, which were rediscovered and rearranged by the brilliant English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, who died 50 years ago this year.

In addition to listing my favourites, each day I will dedicating my choice either to a person who has influenced me in my love of English church music, or alternatively someone for whom a particular carol has a certain significance or meaning.

My first carol is dedicated to the memory of Colin M. Howard, my former Choirmaster at St Mary's Hitchin, who sadly died of cancer earlier this year aged 63. By bringing me into his choir in 1975, Colin opened up for me a world of Christmas wonder which has never faded.

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