Thursday, October 25, 2007

An Actual Christmas CD Worth Owning

I hate to admit this for fear of being pilloried, but years ago I burned out on the "sounds of Christmas." For one thing, you hear them in Advent. And those medleys in which various tunes are smashed together in some not-clever way make my ears hurt. The secularism is bad enough but even the religious material is more than I can stand. So, I long ago turned to listening to the most obscure possible Christmas CDs, anything with melodies with words I don't recognize, anything to freshen up the repertoire -- from some farflung country, from the 11th century by Anon.

All of this is to say that I was prepared to not like a CD called "What Child Is This" by the Chorus Angelicus and Gaudeamus, directed by Paul Halley. Then I heard it. All I can say is that this CD takes popular Christmas music to a completely new level. The arrangements are just dazzling. The tempos are quick and charming. The balance of singers is impeccable. But above all else, I can't say that I've ever heard a chidrens' choir that is so great. There are moments when your jaw just drops to the floor in astonishment at the beauty.

I say it is popular music, but it is not entirely so. Vitoria is here. And Vaughan Williams. But even the old favorites are completely redone with ear-turning harmonies and transitions. Even the song I dread the most--"Go Tell It on the Mountain"--is actually good here, even bringing a smile to the face of this Christmas-carol crab.

It's not for liturgy but more for home listening, but let's face it: we all must play music at home during Christmas. I think I'll play this one 100 times. It's dreamy. This CD is capable of making me fall in love with the "sounds of Christmas" all over again.

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