The Five Greatest Carols Ever

Choral Music Experts Share Their Picks

Monday, December 19, 2011

"In The Bleak Midwinter" is the world’s greatest Christmas carol, according to a poll by WQXR.org of leading choirmasters and choral experts from the US and the UK. The song came out on top, placing above well-known carols like “Silent Night,” “Ding Dong Merrily on High” and “Once in Royal David's City.”

Gustav Holst wrote a popular version of "In the Bleak Midwinter" in 1909, followed two years later by Harold Darke's arrangement. Admirers especially praise the haunting beauty of the carol's text by the English poet Christina Rossetti (sample verse: "In the bleak midwinter / Frosty wind made moan / Earth was hard as iron / Water like a stone").

Second is "Ding Dong Merrily on High," a carol that first appeared as a 16th-century dance tune known as "le branle de l'Official," and whose lyrics are from 19th-century English composer George Ratcliffe Woodward.

Third on the list is "In Dulci Jubilo," also known in English as "Good Christian Men, Rejoice," and one of the few bilingual Christmas carols. "Silent Night," "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and "Once in Royal David's City" round out the top five.

Below follows the top five list (including several ties) and the choral directors' individual lists. What's missing? What are your favorites? Leave your comments and your own favorites in the box below.

All-Time Top Five

1. In the Bleak Midwinter

2. Ding Dong Merrily on High

3. In Dulci Jubilo

4. Silent Night

5. Tie: O Come, All Ye Faithful / Once in Royal David's City

(Runners-Up: Tomorrow shall be my dancing day; Still, Still, Still)

 

James Bagwell, music director, Collegiate Chorale

1. Once in Royal David's City

2. The First Noel

3. In the Bleak Mid-Winter

4. Wexford Carol

5. Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming

 

Andrew Carwood, Director of Music, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

1. Bethlehem Down - Peter Warlock

2. It came upon the midnight clear - Arthur Sullivan

3. In the bleak midwinter - Gustav Holst

4. Sing lullaby - Herbert Howells

5. Tomorrow shall be my dancing day - John Gardner

 

Harry Christophers, founder, The Sixteen; artistic director, the Handel and Haydn Society

1. In the Bleak Midwinter (Holst)

2. Ding Dong Merrily on High (harm. Charles Wood)

3. This is the Truth Sent From Above (harm: Vaughan Williams)

4. Angelus ad virginem (MS C14th)

 

Joseph Flummerfelt, founder and musical director of the New York Choral Artists, an artistic director of Spoleto Festival USA

1. Silent Night

2. Coventry Carol

3. Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming

4. O Come all Ye Faithful

5. Once in Royal David's City ("though it technically probably isn't considered a carol")

 

John Daly Goodwin, Conductor, New York Choral Society

1. Once in Royal David’s City

2. Hark The Herald Angles Sing

3. Ding Dong Merrily On High

4. Lully Lullay

5. In The Bleak Midwinter

 

Jolle Greenleaf, artistic director, TENET / Green Mountain Project

1. Wither's Rocking Hymn - R.V.Williams

2. Sussex Carol - many versions

3. A Spotless Rose - Howells

4. In Dulci Jubilo - Praetorius

5. Jesus Christ the Apple Tree - Poston

 

Francisco Núñez, music director, Young People’s Chorus of New York

1. A la nanita nana (Spain)

2. O Holy Night

3. In the Bleak Midwinter

4. Once in Royal David's City

5. Stille Nacht

 

Peter Phillips, director, Tallis Scholars

1. Joseph lieber - Joseph mein

2. In Dulci Jubilo (by M. Praetorius)

3. When to the temple Mary went

4. God rest you merry, gentlemen

5. Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming)

 

Amanda Quist, Westminster Choir College

1. Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming - Praetorius

2. Infant Holy, Infant Lowly (Polish carol)

3. O Come, All Ye Faithful

4. Angels We Have Heard On High

5. In the Bleak Midwinter, Holst

 

Harold Rosenbaum, conductor & founder, New York Virtuoso Singers

1. O Come All Ye Faithful

2. Silent Night

3. Hark the Herald Angels Sing

4. Ding Dong Merrily on High

5. Joy to the World

 

John Scott, organist and director of music, Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue

1. In Dulci Jubilo - arr. Persall

2. In the Bleak Mid-Winter – Harold Darke

3. A Spotless Rose – Howells

4. Sussex Carol – arr. Willcocks

5. Tomorrow Shall be My Dancing Day – John Gardner

 

William Trafka, organist and director of music, St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York

1. Infant holy, Infant lowly - Polish Carol

2. Still, Still Still - German Carol

3. Away in a Manger - Kirkpatrick's tune

4. Gaudete - From Piae Cantiones, 1582

5. I Wonder as I Wander - Appalachian Carol

 

Kent Tritle, host, The Choral Mix with Kent Tritle; director of cathedral music, Church of St. John the Divine

1. Angels We have Heard on High

2. God Rest you Merry, Gentlemen

3. Joy to the World

4. O Come, All Ye Faithful

5. Silent Night

 

Robin Tyson, countertenor (formerly with The King’s Singers)

1. In Dulci Jubilo

2. In the Bleak Midwinter - Harold Duke

3. Ding Dong Merrily on High

4. The Oxen - Jonathan Rathbone

5. Noel Nouvelet arranged by Philip Lawson

 

Duain Wolfe, music director and conductor, Chicago Symphony Chorus (not in order)

1. Once in Royal David’s City ("especially with Sir David Willcock’s beautiful descant")

2. Still, Still, Still ("simply magical in its simplicity – much like the appeal of 'Silent Night"')

3. Wexford Carol ("great text, compelling music")

4. Silent Night ("deservedly cherished by all")

5. O Come, All Ye Faithful ("the essence and grandeur of Christmas, all wrapped up in one carol")

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Comments [58]

SimSub from Los Angeles

I guess I'll be the dissenting voice here.

Whatever the lyrics may say, the music for "In The Bleak Midwinter" is just that - bleak. Moody, gloomy, mournful.

To me, this is the ANTITHESIS of Christmas.

Christmas is a season of hope, promise, and - more to the point - to "make a JOYFUL noise".

And no matter how beautiful the performance, or poetic the lyrics, "In The Bleak Midwinter" fails this simple test.

As I make my living as a comedy writer, I created the following short (1.5 minute) YouTube video to express my opinion:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgdZs6xCKSk

As I said, a dissenting voice!

Feb. 17 2014 01:59 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

I can understand why "In The Bleak Mid-Winter" touches so many. I feel the same way so much so I arranged it for my elementary school band who played it with great expression and reverence at our recent holiday concert. I'm not sure if this qualifies as a carol; however, I am taken by the Greene & Lowry song "Mary, Did You Know?" especially the rendition by Kathy Mattea which can be found on YouTube. Happy holidays to all and a very happy and healthy new year as well!

Dec. 25 2012 01:15 PM
William Zucker from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Evelyn, I happen to agree with you - don't worry about your knowing little about music - your ears and your intuition will tell you a lot.

I do happen to like In the Bleak Midwinter (not sure which version it is that I've grown to like) and also O Holy Night, especially, as I've already
mentioned, just as presented in that Pavarotti concert from Notre Dame in 1978. I also dislike the background music of Christmas songs that you get in stores and restaurants; it is background music and little more - besides, the original feeling and meaning in this setting is completely lost.

Dec. 29 2011 08:27 PM
Evelyn Lamberg from Westfield, NJ

This probably will illustrate that despite my love for music I know little about it: Harry Belafonte's singing of "Mary's Boy Child" has talen up residence in my head this year. Know it is not classical music, but would love to sing this in church and to hear a choir tackle it. Love "In the Bleak Midwinter" and "O Holy Night"; dislike the music in stores.

Dec. 27 2011 12:10 PM
William Zucker from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I would like to make a further comment.

The hymn Adeste Fidelis/O, Come All You Faithful (I wouldn't consider it a carol) has a certain significance. It is traditionally used as the final number in a Christmas presentation of music associated with the holiday, and it is true there is a certain finality about it in a musical sense.

I remember one time watching a Christmas ceremony taking place at the Vatican, and the melody I refer to was sung. It was referred to by the announcer as an "Ancient Latin Hymn" and it was sung in unison, totally unharmonized.

For some reason, this did not ring true for me. The melody very much suggests that it was conceived some time around the early nineteenth century, and the sort of harmonization that quite naturally goes with it would certainly seem to bear this out, taking into account the very strong harmonic functionality to be seen both in the melody and the harmony.
For me, it affords a great deal of pleasure to hear for this specific reason.

Dec. 25 2011 09:40 AM
William Zucker from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I am going to take a totally different tack in this discussion. I will refer to the arrangements and settings that I feel play such an neormous role in the impressions we receive, rather than merely the bare melodies.
And in each of these, I will refer to whole groups of these carols and songs, coming out of concert presentations and off recordings, rather than
to individual movements.

I point out the following for reference here.

The Luciano Pavarotti concert from Notre Dame in Montreal, with the orchestra conducted by Franz-Paul Decker.

The Kings College Choir of Cambridge presentations of carols.

The concerts of Christmas and Christmas related music presented by the St. Olaf Choir.

The original recorded presentation of carols by Leroy Anderson and his orchestra, and this includes the medley I refer to as the Christmas Festival Overture.

To this I would like to add that the presentation of "Silent Night" by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has an unusual harmonization, quite beautiful to listen to.

Also in one of the St. Olaf Christmas concerts, a short selection by Carolyn Jennings, at one time choir director, entitled "Climb to the Top of the Highest Mountain," was introduced in this context. Though perhaps
not directly related to Christmas although certainly not seemingly out of context musically or emotionally, it is a stunningly beautiful piece that should by all odds be mentioned.

That is my contribution to this forum.

Dec. 23 2011 07:44 PM
Lorna Salzman from Brooklyn NY

How on earth could anyone not choose Bring a Torch Jeannette, Isabella? A wonderful traditional French carol.
And Coventry carol gets chosen only once? Crikey...

And when was the last Christmas that Berlioz' beautiful L'Enfance du Christ was performed in NYC? Or on WQXR?

Dec. 23 2011 06:13 PM
markonymous from Brooklyn

Has anyone mentioned my all time favorite:
Throw the Yule Log On, Uncle John?
I think it was written by one of the Bach spawn. I can't remember which one. Here are the lyrics as best I can recollect them.


Throw the yule log on, Uncle John
Throw the yule log on Uncle John
Soprano: Fa la la, fa la la, fa la la, fa la la, fa la la, fa fa mi fa
Alto: Wahza whuza wuhza wuhza wuhza woo woo, wuhza wuhza wuhza woo woo, wuhza wuhza wuhza wuhza woo wah
Tenor: Chick chick chick chick chick chick chick chick-a chick-a chick-a boom bah
Bass: Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ha

Put the pickle down, Uncle John
Put the pickle down Uncle John
Soprano: Fa la la, fa la la, fa la la, fa la la, fa la la, fa fa mi fa
Alto: Wahza whuza wuhza wuhza wuhza woo woo, wuhza wuhza wuhza woo woo, wuhza wuhza wuhza wuhza woo wah
Tenor: Chick chick chick chick chick chick chick chick-a chick-a chick-a boom bah
Bass: Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ha

Ten o’clock on Christmas morn and all the guests are coming to the door;
Ten o’clock on Christmas morn and Uncle John’s already on the floor.
Though the weather’s bitter cold there’s not a frown to mar the festive mood;
Wait ’til they discover that old Uncle John has eaten all the food.
Hear the hall clock strike, Uncle John
Hear the hall clock strike Uncle John
Soprano: Fa la la, fa la la, fa la la, fa la la fa la la, fa fa mi fa
Alto: Fuzzy wuzzy was a bear, fuzzy wuzzy had no hair, fuzzy wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy wuzzy wuzzy wuhza wuhza woo wah
Tenor: Sis sis sis sis sis sis sis sis sis boom bah
Bass: Boom chick boom chick boom chick boom chick boom chick boom chick boom boom boom buhzoowah doowah

Please, will you come to Uncle John?
Gather around poor Uncle John.
Please, will you come to Uncle John (the no-good good-for-nothing),
Oh, when will you come to Uncle John?
Oh, when will you come to, Uncle John?

Speaking of Bach, the annual Bach fest is underway on WKCR 89.9;
Bach around the clock. 24/7 until New years. A great alternative.

Dec. 23 2011 01:30 PM
Alma Hamilton from Stamford CT

The vast majority of the "Carols" listed (by people who ought to know better!) are not carols at all!! They are hymns!

Dec. 23 2011 12:46 PM
Earl B. from St. Louis

There's something ineffably distressing in forcing a choice of just five atop such a structure of sentiment and recollection as this. Five what? Of such a wealth of musical worth as well as very personal association; of memories of caroling at dawn of Christmas Day; of cherished friends associated with discovery of a given carol - no, indeed, the task is impossible. Nay, not five nor fifty either. 'Tis too brief a season, so let us enjoy them all.

Dec. 23 2011 10:55 AM
Jack Mahon from Stamford, CT

I have favorites that endure year after year, O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing; but every year one carol seems to dominate my thoughts--a year or so ago, it was Still, Still, Still; this year it's John Rutter's Christmas Lullaby.

Dec. 23 2011 10:50 AM
Chris DuBarton from Atlantic Highlands, NJ

I could not believe that a large number of listeners actually picked my favorite, the Holst In The Bleak Midwinter! I like the St Johns recording. My #2 is Balulalow by Britten, the Argo Kings College recording, #3 is Once In Royal Davids City, another Kings College speciality [and Thank You WQXR and NY Public Radio for giving NYers the live broadcast that all my friends on earth could hear every year but us!]. My #4, seemingly unremembered by anyone else, is Suo Gan, a Welsh lullaby that serves very well as a Christmas carol, especially in the magnificent rendition by James Rainbird in the film Empire Of The Sun [he also gave the best recording of Amahl in Amahl and the Night Visitors, on no less authority than Menotti himself]. My last pick is actually an opera number, O Holy Night [Minuit Chretiens] that I first heard as a teen at a party at a Central Park West address, sung by some mezzo or contralto supposedly past her prime [I do not remember who, but perhaps it was Jennie Tourel or Eleanor Steber]. It was magical! The Pavarotti recording is great, like anything he did, but I will never forget that warm, mothering voice of the unnamed mezzo. I stepped out onto a balcony and took a photo of a snow covered Central Park in the dark.

Dec. 23 2011 02:01 AM
Robert Levine

The Holst 'In the bleak midwinter' has always been at the top of my list—but shares pride of place with 'The Three Kings' (***not*** 'We three kings, really'!!!) as performed by the peerless Choir of King's College, Cambridge. Those who's never heard it have great treat in store---an almost unbearably moving Christmas hymn (more hymn than carol, I think)---the first stanza of which is

Three Kings from Persian lands afar
To Jordan follow the pointing star:
And this the quest of the travellers three,
Where the new-born King of the Jews may be.
Full royal gifts they bear for the King;
Gold, incense, myrrh are their offering.

You almost never hear this hymn/carol performed live (outside the context of an Anglican service) but it's surpassingly beautiful. The piece is a synthesis of two quite separate musical narratives that work in perfect tandem in a way which is, so far as I am aware, unique in the traditional Christmas repertoire.

Dec. 22 2011 09:17 PM
Victor Goodstone from Brooklyn, NY

I guess we can't include White Christmas, Jingle Bells, Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer, The Christmas Song, or Silver Bells. And, if we can't include, Phil Spector's Wall of Sound Christmas Album, then I'm compelled to give you my top five Christmas Carols of all time, which would be the following : Oh, Holy Night, Joy to the World, Little Drummer Boy, Come All Ye Faithful, and Silent Night, especially when it was performed by the Mixed Chorus of Shallow Junior High School in Brooklyn, which included a number of American Jews, during the period of the early mid, to late 1960's! Honorable mention should also go to Little Town of Bethlehem, and Stevie Nix's current rendition of Silent Night. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!

Dec. 22 2011 08:16 PM
Dorothea Anastasio from New Rochelle NY

Good choice! I was happy to see In the Bleak Midwinter(Holst) top the list, as it is my favorite also. Then there is another favorite of mine - O Come, O Come Emmanuel, which doesn't seem to be on anyone's list. However,I feel people are getting off the subject by complaining about the use of the word "carol" which originally had nothing to do with Christmas. Maybe the topic should have just been called "Christmas Music" but then people wouldn't have had so much to fuss about.

Dec. 22 2011 07:41 PM
Jarvis Grant from Washington, DC

I'll name one not on the list:
Gabriel's Message

Dec. 22 2011 06:37 PM
Marjorie Mir from Bronxville NY

People Look East, words and music by the poet, Eleanor Farjeon. The lyrics are, simple, touching and beautiful, the music equally so.

Dec. 22 2011 06:35 PM
Robin Taylor Roth from Berkeley Heights, NJ

Your panel members have chosen well. However, I naturally think there are other Christmas carols that deserve honorable mention.

A personal favorite is "The Huron Carol." Not only is the music lovely, in its simplicity, but I think the text is an excellent example of adapting the wonderful Christmas story so that people of different cultures can relate to it.

No Christmas is complete without the Alfred Burt Carols - all of them! Meaningful and truly American.

Dec. 22 2011 06:34 PM

I join all those who have had it up to 'here' with Silent Night. Please no more! I will confess to crimes I couldn't have committed if only stop hearing that noise. As for favorite Christmas carols, I will take I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, Joy to the World, Hark, The Herald Angels Sing and even an art song such as Cantique de Noel over Silent Night any ole day. I also love I Wonder as I Wander, The Coventry Carol and Go Tell It on the Mountain. Not sure if those are carols, songs or whatever, but they are wonderful. And just to cloud matters even more, I'll also add in 'Feliz Navidad'.

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!

Dec. 22 2011 05:12 PM
Tracy Murray from Somerset, New Jersey

Carol of the Bells

Dec. 22 2011 05:10 PM
Maryalice Murphy from Pelham

Oh, Holy Night, since I was in the glee club in my freshman year of high school and was blown away by our soloist, Kathy Feeney, a senior I think,
flinging her hymnal to the floor as she hit the high notes in the refrain.

Dec. 22 2011 05:10 PM
B-A Finlan from Rockport, MA

Lubin--please read the article "hymn" in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. A text being recent does not disqualify it from being a hymn (note that the poetic text is the "hymn" and the music--more specifically the melody--is the "hymn tune"). Better yet, check out the definition of "carol" in the Oxford Book of Carols or Erik Routley's book, "The English Carol." It is amazing to me that the "experts" WQXR contacted about this matter either did not know the difference between a hymn, a song, and a carol, or more probably (with a single exception), did not consider it important enough, worthy of their time, to raise the issue that there indeed is a distinction. The invocation of the word "expert," after all, implies that we will be provided with expert information. If otherwise, just pose the question to the 'man on the street' instead.

Dec. 22 2011 04:57 PM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New jersey

In freshman philosophy in college, it was noted that you should always define your terms at the outset. QXR, typically of those who come up with these lists, did not, and some have (sort of) named actual carols, while others have not. just to add to the "it's not a carol" protest, I would note that "Cantique de noel" (known in English as "o Holy Night"), which was named by several people here, is an art song, not a carol.

Dec. 22 2011 04:49 PM
Mary Jenkins from NYC

Though it's not properly a carol, "Go Tell It on the Mountain" is a wonderful Christmas song. As to carols, I think the Coventry carol is my favorite.

Dec. 22 2011 04:40 PM
L. Lubin from Fort Lee, NJ

I'm glad to see Holst's "In the Bleak Midwinter" at the top of the list, though it is neither a carol nor a hymn, but a relatively recent setting of a relatively recent secular poem. But if 100 years of popularity is all it takes to turn a composition into a carol, then so mote it be!
Another of my favorites is "In dulci jubilo," especially when it is sung slow and soft so as "not to wake the baby."
"Once in Royal David's City" also gets a thumb's up from me. I always enjoyed singing it, and that descant on the last verse always leaves me weak and sweaty.
I like anything that doesn't sound like a department store or mall,but my all time favorite is actually a collection of carols: Benjamin Britten's "Ceremony of Carols," for male treble voices and harp.

Dec. 22 2011 03:54 PM
Jane Gabin from Upper West Side, NYC

My favorite carols are the traditional English ones: "The Holly and the Ivy," "Once in Royal David's City," "The Coventry Carol."

Dec. 22 2011 03:53 PM
Freddy from Manhattan

O Holy Night wins my vote; it moves my soul in a very special way.
The Leontyne Price 1961 recording is my favorite.

Dec. 22 2011 02:17 PM
chris from glimmerglass country

In the Bleak Midwinter (Holst)
Love Came Down at Christmas
Once in Royal David's City
Angels we have heard on high
Infant Holy, Infant lowly

Dec. 22 2011 02:06 PM

My candidate for most wonderful carol that is undeservedly neglected is "A Christmas Carol", by Charles Ives. Given more exposure this magical gem could become a beloved American classic.

Dec. 22 2011 01:46 PM
B-A Finlan from Rockport, MA

"In The Bleak Midwinter" is a Christmas hymn, not a Christmas carol. Please check out the definitions of these two different musical forms.

Dec. 22 2011 01:15 PM
Karen Ann from Morristown, NJ

I'm with you, David from Flushing. "Silent Night" is overrated. I think it's because I love the soaring carols meant to be sung with an organ accompaniment, and this was written specifically because the parish's organ was broken. I'd have a hard time picking from among those others listed on the "official" list or other listeners' lists. May I add an offbeat pick for a "future classics" list? "Anno Domine" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Dec. 22 2011 01:15 PM
Ingram from New Haven

Bravo to Michael above who points out that Harold Darke's In the Bleak Mid Winter is a hymn tune all unto itself, not an arrangement of the Holst.They are both great carols, although I think the Holst is better known.I prefer the Darke, which is bit more upbeat, the Holst being a bit bleak or subdued.

Dec. 22 2011 01:13 PM
John Scott from NYC

This list is glaringly incomplete without high praise for Dennis Keene and the Voices of Ascension!

Dec. 22 2011 01:10 PM
Diana Bitritto

All these Christmas songs about winter, snow, etc. but south of the equator it's summer. What do they sing about at Christmas?

Dec. 22 2011 12:47 PM
Jane Reed

I like:
Koppangen by Anne Sofie von Otter
Once in Royal David's City
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Un flambeau Jeanette Isabelle
On Jordan's Bank

Dec. 22 2011 09:45 AM
vinnie lauten

Happy to see that "In The Bleak Mid Winter" was top pick! Also "A Spotless Rose" by Herbert Howells. Both have a haunting, sacred, earthy quality to them that is not "cheapened" by much of the expressed artifice of the season.

Dec. 22 2011 12:49 AM
Noel J. Para


I am surprised that no one mentioned "Some Children See Him" . . . .

Dec. 21 2011 08:05 PM
Gerald Escala from Bergen County, NJ

Once in Royal David's City. Christmas Eve midnight service. Starting with the chorus only outside the church. Then next verse in the back of the church. Finally, with full organ accompaniment down the main aisle. That's Christmas.

Dec. 21 2011 05:47 PM
Peter O'M.

Whether the fluff on "Lite FM" or the sometimes (but not always) better quality stuff played on QXR, one thing is certain: it will all be buried before the "Feast of Stephen" (a/k/a/ Boxing Day) gets here, not to be heard again for any of the remaining 11 days of Christmas. Such is the way of the commercial world, to which QXR is obviously wedded, despite its new public radio identity.

Dec. 21 2011 04:29 PM
Michael O'Malley from Andover, NJ

Anything, as long as it isn't one of those horrid ditties I'm forced to listen to in the car when my wife has Lite-FM tuned in!

Dec. 21 2011 01:55 PM
David Simmons from Portland, OR

This year, I keep coming back to Ariel Ramirez' Peregrinacion; it makes the anglophilia seem irrelevant. Except for Walton "What Cheer." And Perotin Viderunt. Oh, and Jimmy Bagwell is the hottest conductor alive. Just sayin'.

Dec. 21 2011 12:33 PM
RKBC from Chappaqua, NY

Are you going to play these on the air? When?? :)

Dec. 21 2011 12:20 PM
Bridget Golding from NY/NJ

Did I see correctly - that "Oh, Holy Night" only made one list? The great Ms. Pearl Bailey sang that for me when I was working at the United Nations and she was a Goodwill Ambassador. What a beautiful Christmas song. It gives me goose bumps no matter how many times I hear it. Also, what about the German Carol "Von Himmel Hoch"?
Thank you.

Dec. 21 2011 11:08 AM

in dulci jubilo, arr Pearsall
Gabriel's Message
Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen
Infant Holy, Infant Lowly
Angels We Have Heard on High

Dec. 21 2011 01:50 AM
David from Flushing

One matter that probably sets me apart from most of humankind is my intense dislike of "Silent Night." Give me a good "Joy to the World" or "Hark the Herald" any time, but not this musical version of a creaking rocking chair.

Dec. 20 2011 07:16 PM
Peter O'Malley from oakland, New Jersey

Everything has to be in a list, I suppose, to be validated (unless int's on Youtube), but it is hard to name Christmas Carols as if they were contestants in a race or beauty pageant, especially as how you react to a particular one at a particular time can depend on the performance, the listener's mood (are you, for example, swept up by the triumph of "O Come, all ye Faithful", or in a more pensive mood and so easily swayed by "Es ist ein Rose entsprungen"[Lo, how a rose . . .] or "Silent Night").

that said, and not necessarily in this order:

"Silent Night"

"The first Noel"

"Hark the Herald Angels sing" (giving greater longevity to this tune than any celebration of the Guttenberg printing press alone could have done)

"O come, all ye faithful"

"Lo, how a Rose"

Dec. 20 2011 03:00 PM
Elide Manente from New York City

All of these are wonderful, but one of my favorites is "Tu scendi dalle stelle", one of the very few Italian carols.

Dec. 20 2011 09:54 AM
Victor Mason from Mamaroneck

People mostly agree on the top 10 or 15 carols. I agree with "In the Bleak Midwinter" (both versions) as the most moving. My five: (1) "O Holy Night," (2) "In the Bleak Midwinter," (3) "Silent Night" (since my childhood), (4) "Angels We Have Heard on High" & (5) [chosen by no one else] "Panis Angelicus" ("The Heavenly Bread") by Cesar Franck. Perhaps you could play Pavarotti with Herbert Adler and the National Philharmonic Orchestra and the Wandsworth Boys' School Choir doing this wonderful Franck piece, even though it is not specifically a Christmas song, I believe. Thank you.

Dec. 20 2011 09:50 AM
Frederick Stanley

O Come O Come Emmanuel - I know it is an advent carol but it is one of my favorites. It could also sort of work for Hanukkah since it is about the coming of the Messiah not specifically Jesus.

Dec. 20 2011 08:08 AM
Michael Meltzer

I will second Mr. Brodie on the Victoria "O Magnum Mysterium," I just hate to lock it in to only the Christmas season.

Dec. 20 2011 03:42 AM
toccata*in*f from Central Jersey

Bach's Christmas Oratorio
While By My Sheep
O Holy Night
Gaudete

Dec. 19 2011 08:36 PM
Christine Taylor from New York, NY

The Cherry Tree Carol
The Holly and the Ivy
I Saw Three Ships A'Sailing
We Three Kings
O Tannenbaum

Thank you, WQXR for making Christmastide so beautiful!

Dec. 19 2011 08:22 PM
Virginia from NY NY

I pretty much agree with the list but what No Holly & Ivy?
A caroll that I must confess had to grow on me our Choir Director's favourite.. which has finally crept into my head and heart with the rest of the list.

Dec. 19 2011 06:13 PM
Scott Brodie from New York, NY

I agree with everyone else so far, but would like to toss in...

"O Magnum Mysterium" (Victoria),even though technically it is a Motet, not a Carol

The Coventry Carol

Wassail, Wassail, All Over the Town

Dec. 19 2011 03:45 PM
Ruth Boser from Westchester , New York


Once in Royal David's City

Heard it first at St.Paul, London, sung by the Choristers, just lovely

Dec. 19 2011 12:58 PM
Michael Meltzer

It is important to note that Darke did an individual setting of "In the Bleak Midwinter" just as Holst did. The music is not an "arrangement" but a composition, with Darke's own music, different from Holsts in every way.
There are numerous settings of the Christina Rosetti poem, probably the most popular modern one is by Herbert Howells.

Dec. 19 2011 10:05 AM
Jane Thornton from Forest Hills, NY

My top 5:
In the Bleak Midwinter
Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming
Silent Night
Joy to the World
O Come All Ye Faithful

Dec. 19 2011 08:32 AM
Stuart Manger from UK

Most favourite carols:

Bethlehem Down / Warlock
In Dulci Jubilo / arr Pearsall
"Es ist ein Ros entsprungen"

Dec. 19 2011 06:23 AM

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