From time to time a recording comes along that reminds us of the international character of much Christmas music. The French choir Arsys Bourgogne, formed in 1999, has steadily built a reputation for the geographic breadth of its programming. Conducted by the Luxembourg native Pierre Cao, the 32-member ensemble has assembled a collection of six centuries of Christmas music sung in French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Latin.
The 23 tracks include familiar carols like "O Little Town Of Bethlehem," "In Dulci Jubilo" and “Silent Night,” as well as the spiritual "Go, Tell It On The Mountain" in Scott Warren's arrangement. There are also secular standards, from the opening "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" to "White Christmas."
But it is when the choir travels farther afield that we hear some unusual selections that make the album really stand out. "Ninna-Nanna A Gesu Banbino" has an Italianate lyricism, "En Belen Tocan A Fuego" comes from the Castilian region of Spain, and “Weihnachten” from Germany is a very different "carol of the bells." While "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" will not win any awards for English pronunciation, the choir naturally sounds strong in several French-language selections, including "Noël Provencal" and "Noël des Rois."
The recording captures the ensemble’s blended, rich sonority with a natural Yuletide glow.
Chants De Noël Du Monde (Christmas songs of the World)
Arsys Bourgogne, Pierre Cao, conductor
Available at Arkvimusic.com