While we’ll never tire of the Christmas excitement that lights up our children’s eyes, there’s a real possibility this is not the case when it comes to the ubiquitous holiday music gracing its presence… that 156th version of Jingle Bells may well tip you over the edge. So here is the antidote to Christmas cheese. It’s a classical Christmas music mix of stars, designed to restore your sanity, expose your kids to good music, and ensure that Santa visits your home first. (Rumour has it that he enjoys music by Corelli with Mrs Claus’s mince pies!)
Download tracks from iTunes and enjoy at large!
1. BENJAMIN BRITTEN: CEREMONY OF CAROLS, Op. 28: PROCESSION (Choice recording: Westminster Cathedral Choir).
An unaccompanied plainsong chant with a delivery so pure and angelic, it’s sure to give you goose bumps. The most perfect intro to any classical Christmas music mix.
2. J.S. BACH: WACHET AUF, RUFT UNS DIE STIMME, BMV 645 (Choice recording: Yo Yo Ma & Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra).
Yo Yo Ma’s arrangement is simple yet oh-so-beautiful; a feast of loveliness to revel in. Christmas cosy!
3. BENJAMIN BRITTEN: CEREMONY OF CAROLS, OP 28: THIS LITTLE BABE (Choice recording: Westminster Cathedral Choir).
It’s a fiery and dramatic carol, with driving rhythms to excite your Little Babes. Actually, the entire Ceremony of Carols is worth diving into for a taste of Britten’s absolute genius in writing for voices.
4. DAVE BRUBECK: WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR.
What is Christmas without wishing upon a star? Dave Brubeck recently passed away, and this lush-tastic track is included in his memory, forever a shining star, now from above.
5. CORELLI: CHRISTMAS CONCERTO: CONCERTO GROSSO NO. 8 in G MINOR, OP. 6/8, 3rd MOVEMENT: ADAGIO – ALLEGRO- ADAGIO.
The sound of baroque music and the festive season go together like open fires and hot chocolate!
6. RAVEL: BALERO (CONCLUSION).
The snare drum’s unchanging ostinato rhythm reminds me of the ever-popular Christmas carol “The Little Drummer Boy”. Ravel wrote this as one long crescendo, from super quiet to the LOUDEST OF LOUD! (Much like your children’s excitement growing with all 24 nights of advent anticipation!)
7. CORELLI CHRISTMAS CONCERTO: CONCERTO GROSSO NO.8 in G MINOR, OP 6/8, 5th and 6th MOVEMENTS Another two movements from Corelli’s Christmas gem, Tracks 7 and 8 of this music-mix go together like Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
8. GOUNOD: AVE MARIA: ARRANGED FROM BACH’S PRELUDE NO. 1 MWV 846. (Choice recording Leontyne Price and H. Von Karajan).
In 1852, Gounod improvised a melody over BACH’S Prelude in C from the Well-Tempered Clavier (1722), and the result is heaven!
9. BENJAMIN BRITTEN: CEREMONY OF CAROLS, OP 28: WOLCUM YOLE.
It’s a strident welcome to the world for the Baby Jesus. With child-like excitement at the arrival of the season, like the carol says, “make good cheer”!
10. BARBRA STREISAND: WHITE CHRISTMAS.
Lashings of full cream egg nog, a kick of nutmeg, and a voice thick as honey with sugar for extra sweetness. She sings the line, “May your days be merry and bright” like no other. Managing to marry nostalgia with celebratory chillax, we could listen to this track on repeat for the whole holiday season. Yes! We love Barbra!
11. TCHAIKOVSKY: WALT DISNEY’S FANTASIA: CHINA DANCE.
Positively the most delightful sugar rush on stage! With a nod to Hong Kong and the Mainland, Fantasia’s China Dance features the cutest candy mushrooms we’ve ever seen; they’re red and white for Christmas perfection! Alternatively click here for more from Fantasia.
12. TCHAIKOVSKY: NUTCRACKER SUITE: RUSSIAN DANCE (ACT 2).
A hijacked Ukrainian folk melody produces this fast and furious Russian dance. Challenge your children to try Cossack dancing and you’ll be laughing so hard you’ll be crying! If not, spin ever more dizzily as the piece speeds into a frenzy. Woohoo!…. Christmas craziness at its best!
13. CAROL OF THE BELLS: FROM THE SOUNDTRACK OF HOME ALONE AND HARRY POTTER.
Originally an Ukranian folk chant for the New Year, with Wilhousky’s festive lyrics, this is one of my favourite Christmas numbers of all time!
14. HANDEL: MESSIAH: FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN (Choice recording: Taverner Choir with Taverner Players). Melismatic fantastic! Be mesmerized by vocal calisthenics. It’s optimistic like the sun!
15. VIVALDI: FOUR SEASONS VIOLIN CONCERTO IN F MINOR: “WINTER”: 2nd MOVT, LARGO. (Choice recording: Janine Jansen).
Chilled perfection. Vivaldi musically paints iced landscapes and crisp blue skies, transporting us to the White Christmas we all dream of.
16. BARTOK: ROMANIAN FOLK DANCES, SZ 56: III. PE LOC: STAMPING DANCE: ANDANTE. (Choice recording Midori and Robert McDonald).
Icy false harmonics paint this simple modal melody to sound magical, gentle in its mystery, and wintry: the perfect Christmas picture.
17. MEL TORME: THE CHRISTMAS SONG (CHESTNUTS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE). (Choice recording: Mel Tormé singing himself).
Hilariously, Mel Tormé composed this song in the height of summer, writing frosty lyrics to cool down in a time (1954) long before air conditioning! His result was producing the epitome of Christmas warmth. With a voice as luscious as sweet honey matched with a melody to die for, this track is ridiculously and unbelievably good! Mistletoe, anyone?
18. MOZART: EXSULTATE JUBILATE, K. 165: IV. ALLELUJAH. (Choice recording: Ed Spanjaard, Concertgebow Chamber Orchestra).
It’s a jewel of a piece, high in spirit and wit, and sure to add extra sparkle to your tree.
19. DUKE ELLINGTON: SUGAR RUM CHERRY (DANCE OF THE SUGAR PLUM FAIRY/TCHAIKOVSKY).
Careful with that Christmas punch! (non-alcoholic for the kids!) It’s much stronger and more decadent than at first it seems.
20. SIR HUBERT PARRY: JERUSALEM: FROM THE SOUNDTRACK TO CHARIOTS OF FIRE.
Magnificent! Eat one more mince pie for extra strength to sing this out loud all the way past level 10 up to 11! Love it!
21. ARVO PART: CHRISTMAS LULLABY: ESTONIAN PHILHARMONIC CHAMBER CHOIR
Perhaps the most sublime Christmas lullaby ever written. Hush little babies, and close your eyes so Mama and Papa can get on with preparing Father Christmas’ midnight snack!
22. BJORK: IT’S OH SO QUIET.
Bjork is a gift! Her genius is that she uses her voice as an instrument, and is maybe more an artist than musician. She released this awesome track as a novelty Christmas single in 1995.
23. LOUIS ARMSTRONG: WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD.
“I see trees of green….” Millions of green Christmas trees around the world, decorated like colourful candy, lighting up the night, it’s truly A WONDERFUL WORLD!
24. BENJAMIN BRITTEN: CEREMONY OF CAROLS, Op. 28: RECESSION.
We’ve gone from Britten’s perfect beginning all the way to Britten’s perfect ending. Angels with candles sing this Recession, and in single file, they exit the building.
For a magical live experience, why not take your children to Christmas with the Philharmonic? The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra will lead audiences on a festive journey, with a varied program including Mozart’s Toy Symphony, enchanting winter music from Haydn’s oratorio The Seasons, and choruses from Handel’s nativity oratorio Messiah. Australian soprano Sarah Crane brings silver-toned beauty to the florid soprano parts and the Hong Kong Children’s Choir brings the evening to a rousing conclusion with a selection of timeless Christmas carols.
FOR THE EXTRA MAGICAL AT-HOME EXPERIENCE: the much anticipated sequel to the Oscar-nominated Christmas animation classic The Snowman: “THE SNOWMAN AND THE SNOWDOG”, premieres on Britain’s ITV December 24 at 8pm. Composed by award-winning film composer Ilan Eshkeri and ex-Razorlight’s fabulous Andy Burrow’s, this score defines magic! I recently recorded its solo violin parts at London’s Abbey Road Studios, and it’s one of my favourite projects to date. This animation story will make you cry with beauty at least three times. It’s well worth the download when available on December 29, 2012 here.
Until then, you can download the soundtrack alone here, which I’m playing on with a host of other amazeballs musicians. It’s is a most perfect and magical Christmas present for children and adults alike!
CHRISTMAS WARMTH AND CASHMERE LOVE TO YOU ALL!