Music For the Holidays

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Auld Lang Syne ("old long since"), a 1788 poem in Scots dialect by Robert Burns sung to a traditional melody. Simple standard english version of the lyric:
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne ?
CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Also, here's a 1910 performance by Frank C. Stanley

Dreidl Song ("I Have a Little Dreidel") for a Hanukkah Game

Medieval and Renaissance

Medieval Gregorian Chant

The idea of a "carol" comes from the Medieval dance called a "Carole" from the 12th and 13th centuries. The term "carole" is old French. The Christmas Carol (as well as others such as Easter carols) come from this tradition and concept.

Gaudete, a Medieval carol. Here is a good performance of Gaudete
"Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born
(Out) Of the Virgin Mary — rejoice!"

High Renaissance

"Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" - "Es ist ein Ros entsprungen" (The composer of the melody is unknown; it was first printed in Cologne, Germany, in 1599; the famous harmonization is by German composer Michael Praetorius, 1609) Another performance by the US Army Band Chorus
Lo, how a rose e'er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse's lineage coming,
As men of old have sung;
It came, a flow'ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.


Handel's Messiah
JS Bach's 'Christmas Oratorio' (actually 6 seperate cantatas)
Telemann 'Messias'
A Scarlatti - Cantata pastorale per la nascità di Nostro Signore
Scheidt - In dulci jubilo
Schütz - Christmas Story

Antionio Caldara - Christmas cantatas - 'Vaticini di Pace' is recorded on Naxos
Marc-Antoine Charpentier - Messe de minuit pou Noël

Corelli Christmas Concerto (Concerto Grosso No. 8, ca. 1690) - Six Movements
  • Vivace, 3/4 – Grave. Arcate, sostenuto e come stà, 4/2
  • Allegro, common time
  • Adagio – Allegro – Adagio, common time, E-flat major
  • Vivace, 3/4
  • Allegro, cut time
  • Largo. Pastorale ad libitum, 12/8, G major
Video in 2 Parts


Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet
William Henry Fry - Santa Claus Symphony
Saint-Saens Christmas Oratorio
Berlioz's 'L'Enfance du Christ'
La Boheme

"Lauda per la Natività del Signore" Ottorino Respighi

Tchaikovsky: Dance of the Thumblers from incidental music for "The Snow Maiden", a play by Alexander Ostrovsky (premiered 1873)

Rimsky-Korsakov made "The Snow Maiden" into an opera. Here's one song:

Mendelssohn - Motet for Christmas "Frohlockert, ihr Volker auf Erden" (ca.1845 while Mendelssohn was working at the Berlin Cathedral)
Rejoice, ye people of the earth, and praise God!
The redeemer is come, whom the Lord has promised.
He has revealed his justice to the world.

In the Bleak Midwinter by Gustav Holst, setting an 1872 poem by Christina Rossetti

Holst also composed (arranged) "Christmas Day"--a choral fantasy on old English carols

Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Opera - Christmas Eve


Poulenc - Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël

Gian Carlo Menotti's Christmas-themed opera Amahl and the Night Visitors was premiered on NBC television on Christmas Even 1951. It was inspired by Hieronymus Bosch's painting The Adoration of the Magi hanging in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Arthur Honegger Christmas Cantata ("Cantate de Noel"), from 1953 (his last composition)
Video in 3 parts:

Vaughan Williams 'Hodie'
Britten's 'A Boy is Born'