Music for Advent and Christmas

Yesterday was Advent Sunday. The beginning of the church year, a reminder there are only 3 and a bit weekends until Christmas Day, a time to take stock and think ahead.

We’ve also been thinking back a bit, prompted by some lovely music. The Advent Sunday service from John’s College Cambridge has been broadcast by the BBC since 1985, an Advent companion to the Christmas Eve service from King’s. Yesterday’s programme is available now (probably only until a week from today) on the iPlayer service.


We used to ride our cycles down to Cambridge market on Sundays (see our ace trike above!) & park outside John’s, listening to the choir as we locked up. Listening to them always reminds me of our Sunday market rituals..

This year there is also a CD, which takes in music for Advent & Christmas, recorded quite beautifully for the Chandos label. It includes a few familiar carols, like O Little Town of Bethlehem, I Saw Three Ships, & O Come, All Ye Faithful, some that are not so well known, and others that you may know in different arrangements. This balance makes for a very attractive, enjoyable programme.


It’s hard to pick out a few highlights when there is so much good music. Pieces which stood out on my first listen were a gorgeous performance of Elizabeth Poston’s Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, John Joubert’s simple & moving setting of There Is No Rose, Matthew Martin’s 2006 meditative version of Adam Lay Ybounden, and the carol which lends the CD its title, one of the carols I love the most.

If you follow this link to the Chandos website, you can listen to Silent Night. So nice to hear this sung well. There’s also a link there to the download version, or you can find the CD at MDT for £11.25.


The John’s choir have another super Christmas album, from 2006, Christmas at St John’s, combining plainchant & carols. It’s on the Hyperion label and like On Christmas Night it combines music for Advent and Christmas.

Following this link to the Hyperion website gets you to preview snippets, the download version and the sleeve notes. Again, it’s also available from MDT (£9.95).

This CD also has that lovely, full sound of the John’s choir, alternating some beautiful, spare chant with some of my absolute favourites, including Peter Warlock’s Bethlehem Down, Herbert Howells’ A Spotless Rose, & Holst’s This Have I Done for my True Love. We’re glad to have both of these records to listen to together later in December.

Happy Advent!


Copyright note – the images on this post have been included as ‘fair use’, for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of the copyright holder(s).

4 thoughts on “Music for Advent and Christmas

  1. Much more plebeian in this house, although the Christmas Eve carol’s from Kings is a staple! We dress the tree with Elvis’s Christmas album – every year since dot = and Binky has now taken the tradition to her own home!

  2. Thanks for your recommendations, I’ve been particularly thinking that I’d like some more Advent music in our collection. You make them both sound so appealing I can’t decide. Only one thing to do!

  3. Oh we love Christmas music in this household, both sacred and popular. I am very interested in these recordings and will be investigating further. {I will be performing Mother Ginger with my daughter in the Nutcracker in a couple of weeks so our Christmas playlist has been dominated by Tchaikovsky, time to break it up !}

  4. It’s funny, I was singing along to most of this post, and yet since I left school, I’ve never sung in a choir. I think I maybe got saturated over the years when I was younger, as the choir I was in performed all over the place (including Away In A Manger 29 times in one week, but let’s not go there!) Maybe I need to download some Christmas music…

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