One of the present-day trappings of the holiday season is the ongoing complaint about Christmas music starting too early. I have no interest in wading into that quagmire of a debate, but I will say that I think there is a second, unspoken motivation for the grinching. (Beyond that this is one of the rare intrusions religion makes into the public space these days.)
Christmas music is distinctive. It gets into your head and creates a mood more easily than what usually plays over the loudspeakers at your local Canadian Tire. And that can get exhausting.
I’m as big a fan of Alvin and his brothers as anyone else, but that album has a one, maybe two-listen run each year. Same goes doubly for the maudlin music of the season like “Christmas Shoes”.
Equally, at home, songs from “Marshmallow World” to “Santa Baby” are favourites but they don’t fade into the background. They’re excellent for a hall-decking party but aren’t what I want to have on while I’m working or reading.
What’s the solution? Well, a site called Salt Water New England had a great post about more traditional Christmas music but it has disappeared. So, this is my attempt to re-create what I liked best about that playlist (as far as I can remember it) and add my own touches.
Arch-traditional choral music
- Christmas from King’s by The Choir of King’s College Cambridge – Amazon | Spotify
- Christmas Carols from St. Paul’s Cathedral – Amazon | Spotify
- Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker (standard version) – Amazon | Spotify
- The Greatest Christmas Choral Classics by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra – Amazon | Spotify
- A Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten – Amazon | Spotify
- Merry Christmas from Vienna by Vienna Boys’ Choir – Amazon | Spotify
Classical or orchestral Christmas music
- Handel: Messiah – Amazon | Spotify
- Bach Christmas Oratorio – Amazon | Spotify
- Boston Pops Christmas – Amazon | Spotify
Big band and jazz Christmas
- Big Band Holidays by Jazz at Lincoln Center, Wynton Marsalis – Amazon | Spotify
- Jingle Bell Jazz – Amazon | Spotify
- The Nutcracker Suite performed by Duke Ellington and his orchestra – Amazon | Spotify
- Cool Yule by US Air Force Airmen of Note – Amazon | Spotify
- A Charlie Brown Christmas – Amazon | Spotify