Posted by: Nathan | November 27, 2007

Songs of Angels

‘Tis the season to hear “Winter Wonderland” and “Let it Snow!” until you’re ready to smack yourself senseless just to escape the crappy songs that pass for Christmas music these days. This is especially true if you’re at the mall. Ugh. Fortunately, there is still good music to be found out there if you’re diligent, and one such album is Songs of Angels: Christmas Hymns and Carols.

songsofangels.jpgHow the heckaroo did I find this disc? Last Christmas, I really wanted a good recording of “In the Bleak Midwinter,” one of those devastatingly beautiful Christmas songs, and I found this album on amazon. I know how great it is to be a part of a choir, and this entire album features lovely choral arrangements. And there’s no Parson Brown to be encountered here, only much of the best and most beautiful Christmas music that exists. There are also a lot of traditional songs that would be lost were it not for efforts like this one, e.g. “The Boar’s Head Carol” and “My Dancing Day.”

If you’ve been in a choir, you know how difficult it is to achieve balance in sound, especially because those dang sopranos override everyone else. Look, sopranos, just because you can sing the highest doesn’t mean you get to sing the loudest: pipe down! This, however, is not a problem on Songs of Angels at all. One hears the tenors, basses and altos just as much as the sopranos. The arrangements are pleasing and the soloists are good. And the song selection! You get everything from “Holly and the Ivy” to “Wassail Song” to “Deck the Halls” to “Bring a Torch.” On top of all that, you hear ALL THE WORDS to these songs. It isn’t too often that one hears “Good King Wenceslas” all the way to “he who now will bless the poor / Shall yourselves [sic] find blessing.”

It’s beautiful, it’s cheap, and there are 29 tracks here. Forget [Insert Famous Person]’s Christmas; this is a far better buy. Oh, and “In the Bleak Midwinter” is gorgeous.

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Responses

  1. Tenor power!

  2. You don’t really know me yet, but I am Justin’s lady friend. Your comments about sopranos crack me up! (although, I was a Soprano II so I’d like to shift blame specifically to the Soprano I section)

  3. Mom says, “go Second Sopranos!” – Dad

  4. I’ll definitely have to check this out. And you’re spot on in your take on sopranos. I will, however, add a couple of my own thoughts on the other parts of the choir:

    -Most altos secretly wish they were sopranos.
    -How many Tenor I’s can really exist above painfully flat consistently? (cf, all the times Alto II’s sing the tenor part).
    -Tenor II’s and Baritones are largely interchangeable, though you stick the people with more musical acumen in the tenor section (Holla!).
    -Most baritones secretly wish they were tenors (cf, previous sentence).
    -In the low register, do basses sing, or simply murmur on or about the right pitch?

    Okay, now its time to stop procrastinating…

  5. Oh, and you should listen to Chris Rice’s “The Living Room Sessions Christmas.” It’s superb!

  6. Yes, Living Room Sessions Christmas is indeed good listening. I acquired it less than 100% legally from the soon-to-be-married Nate back when we lived in New Brighton. Remember that? Wow, that seems like a long time ago now.

  7. PK, loved the thoughts on the other parts of the choir. I’ll give a “holla”!

  8. I’m gonna take an exception to your comment “Forget [Insert Famous Person]’s Christmas”. See my blog for a favorable review of “James Taylor at Christmas”. If you give it a listen, it will be worth your time. I provide a link to Amazon so you can sample the tunes if you haven’t already heard the album. Think you’ll like it. Perhaps it will be the notable exception to your general statement.


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