Contemporary Christmas

In musical terms, the festive season isn’t just about Bing, Nat, Frank, Slade, the saccharine carols of John Rutter and the nauseating chintz of Howard Goodall, and all the other music that gets piped at us from mid-October onwards.

For us contemporary music zealots, the Yuletide season often represents a time to go into winter hibernation after the explosion of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, waiting until the shoots of spring music re-emerge the following year.

But actually, Christmas can be a time for new music. There’s usually a commission or two springing up in the two Advent services on Radio 3: the first from St. John’s College, Cambridge, broadcast on the first weekend of Advent, and the second, the great Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge, broadcast on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

There are some cracking contemporary carols; Steve Martland’s Three Carols with the ebullient, dancing ‘Make We Joy Now;’ Jonathan Dove’s ‘And the Day,’ with its reference to ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel;’ the epic ‘O Antiphons‘ by Pawel Lucaszewski; John Tavener’s lively ‘Today the Virgin’ to name but a few.

Obviously, most new music at this time tends to be choral, as choirs and societies ask for works which can be performed throughout the churches to which congregations flock during the Advent season. But for those whose musical antennae  can cease to twitch during December, fear not, for behold: there can be new music at Christmas.

Best wishes for the season to all.


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