My father sang in the church choir and my mother in the Townswomen's Guild Choir and being a choir member myself has been one of my key interests. In autumn, out came the orange, green and blue books of "Carols for Choirs" (Oxford University Press) as we prepared for our Christmas concerts, looking for a mixture of old favourites and newer arrangements and trying to come up with slightly different themes e.g. Carols from Around the World, Carols Down the Centuries, Carols for All Ages etc. (I know, not exactly original, but then Christmas is a time for tradition).
My own favourites have not changed much over the years "Silent Night", "In the Bleak Mid Winter", "Three Kings from Distant Lands Afar" and "O Holy Night". I like the simple unadorned arrangements best - nothing too fancy, but the descants of the standard choral classics such as "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", I find it so uplifting as the sopranos soar up to the high notes. We always end the concert with a lively rendition of "We wish you a Merry Christmas" followed by the serving of mince pies and mulled wine to complete one of my "must do" Christmas activities.
It is much the same with that other staple Christmas music - Handel's "Messiah" which I have sung many times and it never palls. An unforgettable, wonderful experience was singing in the Royal Albert Hall in London in a "Come and Sing" Messiah in a choir of 1000, with orchestra, organ and a packed audience. Singers came from all over Britain and Europe to take part, so there was a great buzz and camaraderie as we found our seats. It was altogether marvellous, moving and exhilarating, and at the end, I walked out on a high!
Classic FM is my favourite radio station and come December 1st we know we are in for a feast of carols and Christmas music. On Christmas Eve, it is time to watch on TV the candlelight carol service from Kings College, Cambridge.
So for me, Christmas would not be Christmas without the enjoyment of seasonal music!