December 10, 2008

Holiday Music Picks, Week #2 – Messiah and More!

Years of singing in church choir and other choral groups means that when I’m out shopping this holiday season and a Christmas carol comes on, I can’t help but start humming along. And I like putting on some of my favorite CDs at home and singing along while I sign cards or make holiday treats.

In honor of this Saturday’s RPO concert (click here for more info), I put on a recording of Handel’s Messiah. When I’m singing along at home, I can join in on all the different solos, and I love the song “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted” for the way the music illustrates the text. When the tenor sings “the mountains and hills made low,” the music starts on a high note and then drops down on the word “low.” The choral parts are especially glorious – especially the “Hallelujah Chorus.” In concert, it’s thrilling to watch Christopher Seaman leading the RPO and Oratorio while playing the harpsichord at the same time.

Carols from the Old & New Worlds, by Theatre of Voices, features carols from a number of different countries. “In the bleak midwinter,” with music by Gustav Holst, is particularly meaningful for this time of year. The writer worries about what to give, “poor as I am,” and decides the best gift is to give from the heart.

Several groups put on concerts celebrating Christmas and the Winter Solstice and featuring English and French carols. I enjoy listening to CDs by Nowell Sing We Clear and The Christmas Revels.

And for a local connection, there are several beautiful albums by hammered dulcimer player Mitzie Collins with Glennda Dove, flute, and Roxanne Ziegler, harp. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to sing with the Lyric Chorale in a joint holiday concert with this trio, so after listening to their album Nowell, I'll be humming the tunes the rest of the day.

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