Songs of the Season

  1. I love Christmas music. Here are a few new choices listed in today's Wall Street Journal.

    Songs of the Season
    Holiday CDs, from Celtic to classical​

    December 15, 2007

    Why do Christmas albums keep coming? Because the old ones, both classical and popular, sell for season after season. Here are some new CDs in the genre, from Bach done the way his 20 children would have heard it, to the Sam of Sam & Dave taking on Santa Claus.

    "A Christmas Celtic Sojourn, Live" includes instrumental and vocal music from Celtic artists, drawn from performances at Boston's Cutler Majestic Theater. The live show was inspired by the radio program "A Celtic Sojourn," which has been broadcast on Boston's WGBH-FM for two decades and explores traditional and contemporary Celtic music. A separate DVD features the full concert program. (Rounder Records; CD, $17.98; DVD is $19.98)

    On conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt's new recording of Johann Sebastian Bach's "Christmas Oratorio," the early-music specialist did several things to evoke the distant Christmas of 1734 in Leipzig, Germany, when the music was first played. Mr. Harnoncourt used period instruments, played live in a church. And he recorded the six cantatas that make up the oratorio in the same sequence as they were composed. (Sony BMG Masterworks, $24.98)

    Jumping ahead 2½ centuries, conductor David Zinman and the BBC Symphony Orchestra are offering Christopher Rouse's "Karolju," which Mr. Zinman commissioned at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 1989. It's a choral work similar to Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana," which the composer has said influenced him. "Karolju: Christmas Music from Rouse, Lutoslawski and Rodrigo" (RCA Red Seal; $13.98) also features the Polish composer's "Polish Christmas Carols" and the Spanish master's "Retablo de Navidad." Mr. Rouse wrote his own Christmas-themed texts in a variety of languages, including Latin, Swedish, French, Russian and German.

    More new music in the form of seasonal tunes -- as well as new arrangements of traditional holiday songs -- comes from English composer/keyboardist Roderick Elms in "Festive Frolic" (Naxos; $8.99). He's helped by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and a choral group known as Joyful Company of Singers.

    Two new albums feature twists on traditional genres. "The Gospel Christmas Project" (CBC; $16.99), offers a Canadian take on an American musical form. The recording was inspired by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television and radio specials and features gospel singers and instrumentalists from Canada. The all-male a capella singing group Chanticleer celebrates its 30th anniversary with the release of an album of holiday songs, its fourth: "Let It Snow" (Warner Classics; $17.97). The group has had popular holiday-season tours and made its reputation with versions of Gregorian chant. On this album Chanticleer sings new arrangements of seasonal songs such as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

    Or a Memphis little Christmas. "Home for Christmas: Voices From the Heartland" (Rounder; $12.98) brings together Western, Memphis swing and bluegrass interpretations of holiday classics, including Rhonda Vincent singing "Let It Snow," Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave) on "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and Deana Carter singing "The Christmas Song."