WQXR For The Holidays

Sunday, December 04, 2011

We’ll be completely candid about our latest Album of the Week: It’s an unabashed pitch for one of our own creations.* But a pretty darn good one, if we do say so. WQXR For the Holidays is a chance to put our own curatorial stamp on the holiday album. It’s a collection of carols, songs and classical Christmas pieces presented in rich yet tasteful orchestral, choral and chamber arrangements.

A few ground rules helped guide this set: 1) keep the bombast to a minimum, 2) no syrupy string arrangements and 3) emphasize the classical side of the holiday canon. Thus, among the composers you'll find are Bach (the Christmas Oratorio Part I and Sheep May Safely Graze), Corelli (the Largo from the Christmas Concerto), Vaughan Williams (Fantasia on Greensleeves), Tchaikovsky (three excerpts from the Nutracker Suite) and Handel (what else, but the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah).

The collection includes no fewer than three takes on “Sleigh Ride”: the popular light orchestral piece by Leroy Anderson, heard in a bouncy version by the Richard Hayman Orchestra; Frederick Delius's little-known but enchanting Sleigh Ride; and Mozart’s “Schlittenfahrt” from the Three German Dances, with its jangly assortment of tuned sleigh bells.

And there are plenty of carols including In dulci jubilo, in an arrangement by John Rutter; the 16th-century carol Gaudete Christus est natus; and In the Bleak Midwinter, a piece that was named the best Christmas carol in a poll of some of the world's leading choral experts in 2008. The performers, all drawn from the Naxos catalog, include choruses like the Trinity Church Choir, Elora Festival Singers and Washington Choral Arts Society; and ensembles such as the New Zealand Symphony and Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. Pianist Leon Fleisher even appears on one track.

Happy listening, and Happy Holidays!


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Comments [14]

Dolores D'Agostino from New York, NY

Yes, to those comments above that point out the commercialism that underlies much of what we hear on QXR. As a non-profit, QXR does not use advertising. Instead, we get "__xxx_______ supports WQXR " followed by a commercial pitch. I see alot of pandering to donors particularly during this season when language is massaged and content manipulated for political correctness (and funding). Finally, it seems, some product is always being hawked, available for a generous "donation". When the station was commercial, it was more honest. Now the message is very convoluted.

Dec. 19 2011 07:51 PM

“Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet,” by Gavin Bryars, is streamed reasonably often at Q2, the 24/7 New Music stream of New York Public Radio. You can find the stream at http://www.wqxr.org/q2.

You can stream from the web site's pop-up player or in your own player such as iTunes or Winamp.

The version most often featured at Q2 includes the work of Tom Waits in the vocal near the end of the piece. It is profound, eloquent.

Another piece with Christian content streamed reasonably often at Q2 is John Adams' "Christian Zeal and Activity", featuring a way way out probably Fundamentalist Elmer Gantry type preacher speaking on "The Man with the Withered Hand". This is an "awesome" piece.

Dec. 13 2011 04:29 PM


The piece is called “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet,” by Gavin Bryars. It’s not a Christmas piece, says John Schaefer, who most recently aired it on Sept 10, and it can be heard in the last 15 minutes of this show: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/newsounds/2011/sep/10/

You can also hear it here:

Dec. 13 2011 12:57 PM
Charles Favreau from Forest Hills, NY

(Please forgive the many inquiries. I have made this request multiple times over the past 5 to 10 years. Please assist me.)

Dear Reader,
Many years ago, I heard on WNYC-FM, or perhaps WQXR-FM, a most moving piece of Christmas music. It was innovative at the time in that it used “sampling” as part of its musical repertoire. The sampling of which I speak was the recording of 4 lines of a traditional, yet little known, English carol, but sung by a very weathered, old and anonymous street person whose gravelly voice most poignantly evidenced his sad, harsh life, but also his sense of hope, for he sang the lines with, what sounded to me like, great faith and devotion.

But the composer had this caroler sing his lines as solo just once. This vocal sample was then repeated with the addition of a single instrument, then one instrument more, then again an additional one, until these four lines crescendoed (sic) into the voice of a full chamber orchestra.

But as the piece continued, the composer removed one instrument at a time in reverse order, until all that remained was the solo sample of this sad, brave man.

If you are familiar with this wonderful piece, and I believe it was during the Xmas season on Mr. Schaefer’s programming, please inform me as to its title and composer, and, if possible, please include it in your Xmas repertoire, and inform me if/when it would be included in your programming.

Thank you so much, and Merry Xmas...or Season’s Greetings...or whatever. But thanks.

Charles K. Favreau
Forest Hills

Dec. 12 2011 05:07 PM
Joanne from NY

Can't those who contribute on a monthly basis (Roland and Wei) receive a gift? They are giving more than the 75.00 required for the Holiday CD...

Dec. 11 2011 02:55 PM
Peter from Oakland, New Jersey

One more thing: the overplayed (especially in the endless promotional spots for all the "Messiah" performances crowded into the next couple of weeks) "Hallelujah" chorus from that oratorio is not Christmas music. It comes from the Easter section.

Sorry, but there are beautiful and appropriate parts of "Messiah" that could have been included.

Dec. 09 2011 05:19 PM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

One of the musical criticisms I have about collections like this is that they throw in, along with Christmas music (which right now is being played to death while we're not even in the actual Christmas season), music (e.g., Delius's "Sleigh Ride") which is properly just "winter music" and which, by virtue of being impressed into service to fill out "holiday" programming, is so played to death between Halloween and Christmas Eve that nobody wants to hear it in the real Bleak Midwinter, when we need cheering up or want to express our delight at, say, a beautiful winter landscape under new fallen snow. Such are the effects of the commercialism of which even the "non-commercial" WQXR is guilty at this time of year.

Dec. 09 2011 04:37 PM
Roland Oliver from Decatur AL

QXR is a unbelievely great radio station. I was stationed at Ft Slocum NY at the Radio and TV Officers School many years ago. I spent some time at another great station there, WNEW which is off the air now.

I made a pledge of $10.00 per month which is all I can afford. Wish I could listen to this album but just can't afford it.

Dec. 09 2011 10:49 AM

Thanks for dedicating a separate channel of Holiday Music. Listeners in the New York area are fortunate to have the variety offered by WQXR on air...Central Florida no longer has a classical music broadcast station...so thank goodness for WQXR.org.

Dec. 08 2011 06:47 AM
Bernie from UWS

It's disgusting. They wrap one of their weekly programs into a fundraising pitch and set the bar far higher than should be expected this time of year. Sometimes I miss the days when QXR was commercial. At least then they were up front about their intentions.

Dec. 07 2011 07:35 PM
Wei from queens, ny

Seriously... down below there... You have money to have a computer and go on the internet, you have $5! No... we can't all afford $75. Neither can I. I can, however, afford $5 a month. That's exactly what I donated the last time there was a fundraiser.

No... I won't have a chance to listen to this CD, which sucks!! They should be able to sell it for a smaller profit margin on top of the donation, but that's their choice. You can't hate others just because you're less fortunate.

WQXR... Thanks for being there all those years I didn't have money and was a poor student.

Dec. 07 2011 05:03 PM
Joseph Greenberg from Port Chester, New York

Not all of us have $75. I couldn't even spare $5, so I will won't be able to hear what you aren't really offering. Christmas music or Hanukah music isn't free. It's free if I play it on my piano for the Seniors, but you people are a joke. Don't tell us this stuff anymore. I am a fan of WQXR but maybe I should give it up

Dec. 07 2011 04:29 PM
SweetLoveMom from New Jersey

Love the site!!

Dec. 07 2011 11:45 AM
romina from argentina

great!!!! good music for holidays.wqxr is amazing.i listen all day here in argentina!!!!

Dec. 05 2011 10:06 AM

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About Albums of the Week

The Albums of the Week are compelling new recordings that we spotlight every week. These include creative repertoire choices, engaging musical personalities and artistic statements that stand out from the pack. You can hear the Albums of the Week throughout the day and evening on WQXR.