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Joy to the world
Has anyone spotted tinsel in the shops yet? I love Christmas, but get irritated when the commercial crescendo begins in August. So why are we publishing a Christmas-themed digital magazine during the summer holidays? Because most choir directors start to plan their Christmas music at this time, and we want to help them in the process.
Christmas 2021 is likely to be especially loaded with significance, given the many different ways we have been touched by the Covid pandemic. Even for those fortunate enough to have escaped the virus and its wide-reaching consequences thus far, there is a sense of collective mourning for the hundreds of thousands who have suffered because of it . How can we ‘celebrate’ Christmas when so many have died? Some will argue that after more than 18 months of restrictions, it’s time to let our hair down and enjoy ourselves, especially given that last Christmas in the UK was marred by so many not being able to spend time with loved ones. Others may prefer to mark the feast in a more low-key way, mindful of the ongoing pain of those who grieve. In whatever way you feel it appropriate to celebrate the season, if you are reading this, music is sure to be a part of it .
At the heart of Christmas music is the carol – a simple song, which can be sung equally in places of worship, or concert halls, or the streets. Jeremy Summerly describes how this has come to be embedded in English culture (p.7); Ed Newton-Rex traces the development of Oxford University Press’s Carols for Choirs series (p.13); and we hear from King’s College, Cambridge, about the annual process of commissioning a new work for the world-famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (p.24). Messiah is a staple Christmas fixture, and Samir Savant describes how the London Handel Festival overcame the pandemic restrictions to perform it to a global audience (p.16); elsewhere, John Rutter and María Guinand share memories of seasonal music and why it is special for them (pp. 10 and 28 respectively). Our listings and reviews of new Christmas publications, complete with links to the publishers’ websites, give you plenty to choose from; and David Hill helps you to narrow it down with practical advice on planning a programme (p.20), as well as sharing his extensive experience in a tutorial on conducting Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on Christmas Carols (p.32). We hope this will bring you some inspiration in your preparations; and wherever you are, whatever you sing, we wish you the joy of the season.
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CHRISTMAS 2021 CHORAL DIRECTIONS 3
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