Monday, December 5, 2011

An Advent playlist




My kids are playing all of my Christmas music.

What can I say? They're kids--they love this time of year. They love Christmas.

But I still want my Advent.

So I'm sharing the list of songs that I turn on every time I think to wrest back control of iTunes. It's Advent music, and I have been collecting it for the express purpose of having holiday music to play and still being able to save "Joy to the World" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" for Christmas morning.

I'm not so much of a purist, however that way my temptations lies, that I won't ever listen to early Christmas music without a grudge, although I admit to being a humbug sometimes. And I actually enjoy quite a few pieces that are what you might call secular/classical holiday music. But today I want to think about Advent. So here's my playlist, informally.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
I have three different versions on this playlist. First, "Veni, Veni Emmanuel" by The Christendom College Choir and Schola Gregoriana, is an old school, Latin, choral version of the quintessential Advent hymn. I scored this at iTunes U, which is just an awesome resource for all kinds of free stuff.

Then there's "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (Reprise)", from Celtic Christmas by Eden's Bridge. I love this group. This is a soulful, more intimate version of this beloved song (and in English).

I have a personal attachment to A Season of Hope: Rediscovering Our Advent Heritage by the Brotherhood of Hope. I will be saying more about this album. For now, can you tell now that I love "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"? This one only has two verses, but it's a neat sort of "mash-up" with another song. "Watchman, Tell Us of the Night," has antiphonal lyrics from the 18th century and an (I think) original melody.

Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day
1833's version of Lord of the Dance. I still like it. Seriously, though, this song combines the anticipation of Christmas Eve with the drama of the Incarnation. (My version only has the chorus and first two verses.) It's a light, happy melody with a merry English feel.

Creator of the Stars of Night
This is one of the hymns I brought home from church, so to speak, where we typically have accompaniment. This a cappella version is beautiful. On YouTube, a solo version.

On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry
Another favorite from liturgical hymns, from the same album, Advent Promise. The best thing is when the kids and I are singing these from the hymnal. They are already familiar with the melody; the younger ones practice their reading, we all get a little theology lesson. Which is the way such music should work, after all.

Ave Maria
The verses that, one might say, marked the beginning of the first Advent in earnest. The "Ave Maria" has been set to music by countless composers. Gounod's is hands down my favorite. Absolutely. And yet I currently have only an instrumental version. Here's one of the best tenors of the day, Juan Diego Florez, singing it.

I do have a recording of Juan Diego Florez singing "Ave Maria" by Schubert the other standard, perhaps even better known than Gounod's, and of course, just gorgeous
.
Gabriel's Message
The story of the Annunciation to music again, but a more modern telling. This is a recent discovery of mine--only last year. I find this recording by Moya Brennan intriguing.

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
Thanks to this recording, I think that this is one of the most beautiful Advent hymns ever composed. Watch it here on YouTube; the version on the album is even prettier.

O Eve
I think this one, by composer Frank La Rocca, is still my favorite.

Canticle of St. Nicholas.
I don't remember where I got this lovely Ukranian carol. I think it was a free Amazon download, but it's popping up as a free download everywhere on search engines now. I'd love to know what it says. The best I can tell, it's a hymn in praise of St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, who is highly revered in many European countries and whose feast is December 6 or December 19, depending on whose calendar you are using.

People Look East
There are two songs I automatically think of when someone says "Advent music": "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," and this one. It's a stately recessional hymn when sung at Mass, but at home I like this version by Al Petteway and Amy White--it's low-key but upbeat, a nice start to the ramp-up for Christmas.


Also worth mentioning are two albums that make great Advent listening in their entirety. One is, of course, Handel's Messiah. The words for Part I of this Easter masterpiece are drawn heavily from Isaiah, which makes it thematically perfect for Advent. It has become a traditional Christmas concert piece. (I actually have only a CD of highlights, but they're all good Advent-y highlights!)

The other is the above mentioned A Season of Hope, by the Brotherhood of Hope, which I am happy to see is also available on iTunes. This is a wonderfully varied collection of music, and proceeds support the Brothers in their ministry. I owe a debt of gratitude to their spiritual care in my college days, so I like to give them a shout-out when I can. They put out this album when Advent albums were a little harder to come by.


What's your favorite Advent music?

2 comments:

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...

Oh thank you! I've been looking for more Advent songs. That version of Let All Mortal Flesh is one of my favorites too! I didn't see Oh Come Divine Messiah on your list. Have you heard that one? There is a version on iTunes by Three of Cups that's coupled with Fezziwig's Tune that almost sounds like a jig. It's fun!

Nicole Stallworth said...

I have heard that melody before but didn't know the title or words! I'll have to find a recording of them. Some of these French carols just can't be beat!

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