Maybe my favorite Christmas CD in my collection is the American Boychoir’s Carol album. It’s everything Christmas music should be. The singing is powerful and rich, the orchestral arrangements are brilliant and stirring.
The liner notes say it best, “The American Boychoir, performing with orchestra, chamber ensemble, organ and carillon in the cathedral-like acoustics of the Princeton University Chapel, brings a new sound to this joyous music. The delicate yet brilliant sounds… combine to create a new listening experience.”
They open with, from the Ukraine, Carol of the Bells which makes great use of the carillon and then they move into a regal sounding Joy to the World with a full orchestra that fills the hall to the rafters with joy.
There is a new song that I was not familiar with, This Christmastide (Jesseye’s Carol) and it’s really lovely and soft. The organ is perfect with the voices and together they build to a thrilling peak. It makes me tingle.
Christmas Day, by Gustav Holst, is a great medley of Good Christian Men Rejoice, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Come Ye Lofty, Come Ye Lowly and The First Nowell. There is some complex layering of voices here.
Silent Night! Holy Night!, O Holy Night, Away in a Manger… these are filled with those fabulous American Boychoir harmonies that James Litton designs so well. I know that Angelic is an adjective that is overused to the point of becoming trite, but heck, what other word is there to describe this sound?
I’ve never heard a more beautifully haunting version of What Child is This? It’s very moving. I’m not always accurate when it comes to identifying certain instruments in the orchestra but I believe what I’m hearing here is harp, oboe, flute and violin among others. It’s a great combination.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and O Come, All Ye Faithful are loud, powerful and uplifting songs and the choir sings them perfectly.
We Wish You a Merry Christmas is a short, pretty version that is less than two minutes long and the interesting thing about it is that the coda was composed by a 14-year-old member of the choir.
I give this album my strongest recommendation. If it doesn’t put you in the Christmas spirit, well, you might need to be visited by some ghosts to adjust your attitude.