Look no further than our picks for choral Christmas bangers to spice up your playlistVarsity

Cambridge is known for many things - Richard Ayoade, Tom Hiddleston, the apple that almost certainly didn't fall on Newton's head - but one overarching piece of renown is its choral tradition. While some might accuse chapel choirs of being cults with our odd chanting, weird robes and discussions of ‘Evensong’ and ‘Magnificats’, even the most staunch critic must admit that at Christmastime nothing quite hits the right spot as much as a good sing of O Come All Ye Faithful (and especially the chord on ‘Word of the Father’ in the Willcocks arrangement). With this in mind, here are my choral picks to spice up your basic Christmas playlists! Once you’ve listened to these four picks, you can listen to more on our Spotify playlist full of choral Christmas bangers.

A Spotless Rose - Herbert Howells

As my fellow choir members can confirm, I am absolutely relentless in my love of choral composer Herbert Howells - there’s something about his specific sound that hits a certain spot for me. And nowhere is my love of Howells more concentrated than in this piece, which I think is about as close to perfection as you can get. An honourable mention goes to Here is the little door, also by Howells, which I couldn’t add to this list for fear of being accused of being a Howells fanatic.

Bethlehem Down - Peter Warlock

A seemingly quite popular choice among choirs this year, Warlock’s Bethlehem Down is, as a good friend put it, ‘a total vibe’. The soundscape that Warlock crafts in the harmony is masterful, while the two first repeated verses lull you into peace before letting your ears be graced by the incredible reharmonisation in the final two verses.  

Coventry Carol - Traditional arr. Barnaby Smith


Mountain View

‘There’s something in the water’: Plastic Mermaids say the Isle of Wight is a breeding ground for musical talent

A very sombre piece reflecting on Herod’s call for the slaughter of children, the arrangement by Smith conveys the sadness and anger of the original text while retaining the fragility of the melody through the unaccompanied singing. Listening to the powerful refrain of “Bye bye, lully, lullay” is sad enough to stamp out any unwanted Christmas joy, so I’d advise listening to this one sparingly - it truly encapsulates how powerful music can be.

Sir Christèmas - William Mathias

A cheesy pick here from me. I’ve always loved the jauntiness of the melody as well as the classic Mathias ‘crunch’ in the organ, but most of all I’ll always hold very dear memories of choir practice where we would spend five minutes trying to get everyone to shout “Noel” at the correct time. Predictably, there was always a rogue "Noel" in the service.