Christmas carols are dangerous. Be warned.
You might set out in good faith to listen to a rousing melody that stirs the heart, but if you’ve not selected your running order carefully you will, I promise you, end up feeling irretrievably morose.
That’s what carols are designed to do. That’s why we need descants. Carols are a heady, life-threatening mix of melancholy and celebration. A bittersweet musical expression of all the pain and the joy we experience as individuals.
Approach with caution. We have a collective responsibility to be vigilant. We mustn’t settle for the familiar. Seek out that which subverts expectations.
My festive musical discovery this year is Voces 8 Christmas album from 2011.
It’s partly a collection of some of those familiar
Thomas Hewitt-Jones’s jaw-dropping exploration in the final verse of Once in Royal David’s City (a more three-dimensional harmonic experience compared to David Willcocks’ descant), then indulge in Jim Clements’s gradual
And there’s an additional pleasing thing to mention about this album. It’s on Signum Records, who just last week celebrated reaching two million streams of its content. Not a bad achievement for an independent label whose owner turns up at the concerts for the groups he’s produced to sell CDs. Yay. Signum.