When it comes to Christmas music, I’m a traditionalist. I like listening to Handel’s Messiah, Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, and choirs singing the old carols. Of course, we still play Nana Mouskouri because we listened to it as children. But my favourite Christmas album these days is from The Sixteen, a classical ensemble from London, their Traditional Christmas Carol Collection.
When I lived in London, I had the good fortune to work at Southbank Centre, a big arts centre that includes the Royal Festival Hall. One of my jobs was commissioning the text to go in the program notes for some of our classical concerts. The Sixteen were Associate Artists then, and it fell to me to edit their programs. I’m not a huge choral music fan, I have to say, but I respect the amount of research they put into their interpretations. As a group, they specialise in early English music, so the leap to Christmas carols is a logical one.
Putting all that aside, it is a collection of carols, beautifully sung, that brings to mind soaring cathedrals. It feels inarguably special every time I put it on, and that’s what I want at this time of year.