Anna Lapwood: my Christmas top five
In an exclusive IDAGIO playlist, British organist and conductor Anna Lapwood shares her all-time favourite Christmas recordings: "It's rather hard to choose just five favourites from the huge wealth of incredible Christmas choral music - my ‘favourites’ probably change every day of the week! I've tried to pick five which I particularly love at the moment, and hope you enjoy them as much as I do."Read more…
Poston, Jesus Christ the Apple Tree – Belfast Cathedral Choir, Matthew Owens
This has been a must on my Christmas playlist for years! I love the simplicity and fragility of the opening and the way the harmony then expands out with each verse, almost resembling a flower gently blooming - just upper voices first, and then the whole choir in the 3rd verse. The simple
vocal writing provides such a wonderful opportunity for bringing out the beauty and nuance of the text. I’ve chosen this recording because of the final verse - there is the option in the score to sing the final verse in canon, as heard here, and I think it’s a rather special effect!
Britten, A Ceremony of Carols: This Little Babe – Oxford Girls’ Choir, Richard Vendome
I first sang this piece when I was at school, and I remember looking forward to it every year! It was originally written to be sung by children, and you can definitely sense that because it is just such fun to sing, particularly in this movement where the music seems to ricochet around the various parts. This recording is sung by the Oxford Girls' Choir who rehearsed just down the road from my school - I love its energy and drive, with fantastic harp playing too.
Roderick Williams, O Adonai – Ora Singers, Suzi Digby
This piece is a newer discovery but I adore it. A choir of angels improvise on given themes before they are joined by the full choir who represent the crowd. The final component of the puzzle is a solo baritone who sings over the top of the rest of the music, sometimes lining up and sometimes singing separately. I’ve always loved the more intense music of Advent, and this piece is definitely
in that category, brilliantly sung here by Ora Singers, with the composer Roderick Williams also singing the solo.
Eric Whitacre, Lux Aurumque – Eric Whitacre Singers
I always think this piece is like a musical onomatopoeia. The opening instantly conjures up images of warm pulses of light, reminding me of a candlelit chapel, and bringing a sense of comfort, familiarity and safety. I love the joyful music we get to sing at Christmas time, but I also adore music that draws the listener in. The final section of the piece features quiet chords underneath a sustained soprano note. Singing this in a full chapel and being able to feel hundreds of people listening intently is a really extraordinary feeling. Who better to perform it than the composer himself with his hand-picked choir.
John Rutter, The Very Best Time of Year – Cambridge Singers, John Rutter
I always say it wouldn’t be Christmas without Rutter, and this is a current personal favourite…! There is something so delightfully nostalgic about this music - we have actually just recorded an A Capella arrangement of this piece, but I couldn’t resist including the full orchestral version for you so that you can hear all of Rutter’s glorious orchestral colours. It’s like a luxury hot chocolate in a piece of music!