Singing Glad Tidings of Joy

The Jesus Review

In the places that we serve, we are aware of the shift that Advent brings. Not only does it shift our awareness toward planning worship services, bazaars and bake sales, but also highlights our awareness of where God’s light needs to shine this season.

As we wait for God to tear open the heavens and come down, the Board of Fidelia’s Sisters offers you the gift of song. Amid economic woes and falling snow, we hope that these musical blessings might break into your world with a new experience of Christmas.

Choir of King’s College Cambridge – Britten Choral Works

Sarah Kinney Gaventa raves: “I fell in love with Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols when I was a chorister at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Richmond, VA. While the carols are beautiful, their almost-spookiness are also an antidote to the sticky sweet Christmas music that wafts through shopping malls and popular radio stations this time of year. You can’t beat the King’s College Choir, so while there are many recordings of A Ceremony of Carols, this is the album that sets the holiday mood for me.”

Sufjan Stevens – Songs for Christmas

Though her parents’ Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby Christmas records nearly ruined her inner traditionalist, Alex Hendrickson loves this five EP set. She explains her affection: “I love this collection of Christmas songs because it in no way detracts from my romantic notions of quiet December days spent with family by an open fire. Yet, at the same time, Stevens still manages to add new vigor to a sometimes tired group of old chestnuts, in reworking old carols (and adds some new original holiday songs) in a way that comforts even as it refashions. His breathy and soft voice welcomes a sing-along. His arrangements introduce poignant harmonies as well as the great American sound of the banjo.”

Tchaikovsky – The Nutcracker Suite

Ann Bonner Stewart explains: “When I was growing up, my Advent consisted of the studio, the barre, and the stage, so, if I’m being honest, this is the one CD I can’t get through Advent or Christmas without. I recognize my choice is overly sentimental and somewhat pedestrian, the choice of retailers worldwide. However, when I hear Tchaikovsky, I remember what it was like to prepare for months for a single weekend, to play whatever role it was that I was given, and to have used my body to express a passion words couldn’t fully articulate… all of which seem fairly Advent appropriate to me.”

MaryAnn McKibben Dana describes herself as a “Christmas music junkie,” which made it impossible to choose one album. She designates her choices by moods, two for the more joyous occasions and one for Advent’s lament.

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas

This should be your new soundtrack for putting up the Christmas tree. It has all the standards, from Jingle Bells to Frosty the Snowman, with Ella’s trademark warm and lithe vocals.

John Denver and the Muppets – A Christmas Together

This album features the only version of The Twelve Days of Christmas that doesn’t suck. MaryAnn thinks that this is an album “just for fun,” but with the sheer nostalgic value, you might find that a couple of poignant moments that sneak up on you.

Sarah McLachlan – Wintersong

If your mood is a melancholy December, this is a great choice for you. This is the album for purists who don’t want any Christmas in their Advent. Yes, the album has Christmas songs on it, but they are presented in a distinctive Adventen mood. The First Noel is paired with Joan Baez’s Mary Mary in a haunting medley with an almost Middle Eastern flavor in the middle. McLachlan’s What Child Is This? is MaryAnn’s favorite version from any album (or hymnal). And let’s face it, she adds, Happy Xmas (War Is Over) remains relevant.

Medieval Babes – Mistletoe and Wine: A Seasonal Collection

Katherine Smanik Moyes expounds: “I purchased this album about 2 years ago and it has become my Christmastime staple. The Medieval Babes are an English all-female octet known for their tight harmonies and ability to breathe new life into medieval music. This album features a collection of holiday music that is both peaceful and celebratory. My particular favorite is their rendition of Gaudete, although the opening track, The Holly & The Ivy is also excellent.”

Mary Chapin Carpenter – Come Darkness, Come Light: Twelve Songs of Christmas

Following an enthusiastic recommendation from an older clergy woman, Elsa Peters raced to her local independent music store to purchase this newly released album. She explains: “Like MaryAnn, I start listening to Christmas carols far too early (think October). And yet, when December arrives, I need that warm blanket that this album offers. These twelve songs for my favorite time of year remind me once again that Mary Chapin Carpenter is one of my favorite theologians, especially the title track. It’s just what I need.”

8 replies
  1. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Excellent suggestions, every one. Might be adding the Mary Chapin Carpenter disc to my collection. I also recommend Blind Boys of Alabama Go Tell it On the Mountain.

  2. susan
    susan says:

    Thanks for the list! I grew up singing the Messiah during Advent, and since college have fallen in love with Over the Rhine’s Darkest Night of the Year.


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