• Jonathan Lakeland

My 5 Picks for Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner, and if you're like me, you won't feel totally festive unless Christmas music is playing. There is plenty of classical music that fits perfectly with the holiday season, and I'm always keen to listen to as much of it as possible around this time of year. Below are my favorite listens this year - and I think there's something for everyone here:

1. A Very English Christmas -

  • Who? - Tenebrae (conducted by Nigel Short)

  • What? - A lot of Christmas carols, some of which you might know, and some you might not. But each and every one is expertly sung by one of the best choirs in the world, in beautiful and incredible arrangements - some festive, some mystical, some boisterous.

  • When? - Listen to this recording when you can focus on it - maybe while doing a simple task like putting presents under the tree, or preferably when you can sit, look out the window at your neighbor's decorations, and listen to this great choir.

  • My Favorite Tracks: I saw three ships come sailing in ; I sing of a maiden (Redshaw) ; Mary Walked through a Wood of Thorns

2. A Boston Pops Christmas

  • Who? - The Boston Pops Orchestra & Tanglewood Festival Chorus (conducted by Keith Lockhart)

  • What? - Every hit Christmas favorite that you can think of (both secular and sacred) with exciting arrangements played by one of the best pops orchestras around.

  • When? - Literally anytime. Perfect listening during your Christmas party. Listen with family and friends, sing along, and let the music fuel your excited good cheer while eating, drinking, and being merry!

  • My Favorite Tracks: The Christmas Song ; Sleigh Ride ; How the Grinch Stole Christmas

3. The Nutcracker

  • Who? - The Mariinsky Orchestra (conducted by Valery Gergiev)

  • What? - A story about one magical Christmas eve when little Clara Stahlbaum's life is turned upside-down by her mysterious uncle and the mystery and magic which follows him.

  • When? - Anytime when you want to listen to music and feel saturated with festivity. Or maybe I should just say - ALL THE TIME!

  • My Favorite Tracks: #14 (Arabian Dance), #15 (Chinese Dance), #16 (Russian Dance), and #22 (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy) are the most famous. HOWEVER don't miss out on all the other amazing and recognizable music, especially #3, #9, #11, and every other track.

  • Bonus - This album also has Tchaikovsky's Symphony #4 on it. It's one of the best piece in all of classical music... so give it a listen too.

4. Britten: A Ceremony of Carols, Rejoice in

the Lamb, A Boy was Born

  • Who? - The choir of King's College, Cambridge (conducted by Stephen Cleobury)

  • What? - Three amazing larger works by the brilliant 20th century composer (one of my faves) Benjamin Britten. All in English, these are three very different pieces (with a sacred bent) all telling the story of the birth of Jesus in some way.

  • When? - I like to listen to this album while having a drink, and winding down. The music ranges from meditative, to exciting, to comical. I think it perfectly accompanies that time after dinner and before bed when the house is quiet, the sky is dark, and we can reflect on our diverse lives, our experiences, and our innermost thoughts & emotions.

  • My Favorite Tracks: Procession, Balulalow, In Freezing Winter Night, Recession, ALL of Rejoice in the Lamb (Track #s 13-19), A Boy was Born - Theme (Track 20), and In the Bleak Midwinter (Track 25)

5. Handel: Messiah

  • Who? - The Academy and Chorus of St Martin-in-the-Fields (conducted by Sir Neville Mariner)

  • What? - Handel lived from 1685 to 1759, and spent much of his life living and working in London. His "Messiah" is one of his most famous pieces, performed around Christmas and Easter all over the world every year. A sacred work, with outstanding music, this particular recording is one of the most exciting and fresh-sounding around.

  • When? - Anytime -the music is lively, and is perfect for moments of high and low energy throughout the season.

  • My Favorite Movements: Every movement is pure magic, but I particularly love -Symphony (Track# 1), Comfort ye (Track #2), For behold (Track #7), His yoke is easy (Track #14), Why do the nations (Disc 2, Track #13), and of course the world-famous Halleuljah chorus (Disc 2, Track 15).

#christmas #handel #tchaikovsky #boston #pops #tanglewood #tenebrae #mariinsky