liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] liv
[personal profile] ephemera asked about seasonal music. (And a bunch of other things, but unfortunately I'd filled all my December slots before getting round to those ones.) And I found it an interesting and thought-provoking question, so let's see.

I've vaguely seen things around about people hating Christmas music and my response has been, well, I quite like it but different people have different tastes. And I could very easily not have liked Christmas music because it's the dominant culture being imposed on me. But I realize that the people who hate Christmas music actually hate the kind of music that gets played on loop in shops throughout the autumn, which I mostly just avoid. And I get the impression it's even worse in America, where "Christmas music" means really sentimental vaguely winter-themed stuff from several generations ago, not just extremely mediocre soppy pop music.

So the kind of Christmas music I like is actual religious Christian music, carols especially as performed by traditional church and cathedral choirs. I realize a lot of this is because I grew up in Cambridge where the colleges have a really stunningly good choral tradition. Lately I've been making a habit of watching the Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast from Kings College. (This year's was really good, btw, if you haven't seen it and you have access to iPlayer, well worth a listen.) And yeah, I do feel slightly weird about that as a Jewish person, as well as imposing a bit on my poor atheist husband making him listen to a Christian service. But, you know, my musical tastes were hugely formed by Cleobury from my teens.

What made me get over feeling strange about really liking Christmas carols and the Christian choral tradition was in fact living in Sweden. Like, we had a visiting choir one year who came to the university and sang Lucia carols, and I thought to myself, well, they're over-reaching a bit, they're trying to sing polyphony that's a bit too technically advanced for them, but they're just kids. And it turned out that they were in fact students at the most presitigious musical college. That got me thinking, having good choirs in every little village church, and world class amazing choirs in cathedrals and the big college chapels is part of my culture as an English person, even though I'm not Christian.

So quite often during December I'll seek out classical music stations playing Advent and Christmas music, or albums of carols on Spotify. And I know some Christians don't listen to carols during Advent as it's a penitential season for some, but I'm listening just cos I like the music. When [personal profile] angelofthenorth (who is Christian but is ok with carols before Christmas) was visiting she was helping me find good stuff, and we happened to be walking in the village when they had their carol service, so we dropped in, and the choir were kind of ropey in places but they were singing some pretty technically complex music at least well enough to sound pleasing.

And I suppose there's no reason why I shouldn't listen to carols at other times of year, since I'm not listening for religious reasons anyway. But somehow I like spending the dark days of the year listening to ths particular style of music when it's at least approximately seasonal.

[December Days masterpost]

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-26 11:22 pm (UTC)
kass: "Judaism is my other fandom." (judaism)
From: [personal profile] kass
When I was a choral singer I used to love singing Christian choral music -- from the big masses and so forth to the more folk-oriented stuff, carols and the like. What I loved best was singing a cappella in a tight small group. And for years I went to the local Lessons and Carols service here, which is of course patterned off of the one from Kings College. So I completely hear where you're coming from on this one! I get annoyed by some of the soppy / hokey American nostalgia stuff, but I love the old material. Hm, now I think I'm going to have dig out my old Anonymous 4 cds... :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-27 10:53 am (UTC)
quizcustodiet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] quizcustodiet
I nodded along to most of this post. While I am a confirmed (in the non-sacramental sense!) atheist now, one of the big things I've retained from growing up Catholic is a fondness for choral music and Christmas music. Like kass, I think some of it is rooted in having been a choirboy before my voice broke, and so having early exposure to Gregorian chant and music like Pergolesi's Stabat Mater.

If you haven't listened to it already, you might want to try streaming the Barenaked Ladies' "Barenaked for the Holidays" to see if you like it. It's a mixture of traditional carols, more popular Christmas music and a couple of pieces about Hanukkah. In particular I recommend the mash-up of 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' and 'We Three Kings', with the gorgeous voice of Sarah McLachlan.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-27 08:23 pm (UTC)
ephemera: celtic knotwork style sitting fox (Default)
From: [personal profile] ephemera
That's a really interesting take on the English choral tradition - thank you :)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-27 08:28 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
Oh, I think that the vast, century-spanning repertoire of Christmas music is the finest cultural flower of Christianity, possibly its best contribution to the human community. Sturgeon famously once said that 90% of everything is crap, but I'm pretty sure the crap proportion of Christmas music is way, way lower than that: the mid-20th-cen American nostalgia-kitsch is but a thin scum that can be skimmed off the rest of the brew.


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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