Symphony in D major Opus 18 No.4 (3) Johann Christian Bach Download 'Symphony in D major Opus 18 No.4 (3)' on iTunes
19 December 2014, 15:45
Which descant is the absolute choirboy's cassock? We've assembled a list of the ultimate Christmas carol finales, and we're pretty convinced we're right.
O Come All Ye Faithful
This guaranteed barn-stormer is worth it for the spine-tingling "sing in EEEEX-ultation" and the whirling embellishments in the melody alone. Then add in the call-and-response refrain and then actually re-write the whole thing for the final, final verse and you've got an absolute classic on your hands/in your mouth.
Once In Royal David's City
All together now: "Nooooot in tha-at poor LOOOOOONELY sta-able!" Just think how far you go with this one - if you're doing it properly, this will start with just a single boy soprano and end with this insane descant. Pair it with some brass and you're really cooking with gas.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Perhaps the most insane descant in regular performance. Nothing beats the moment when the sopranos all collectively brace themselves for the deafening final refrain. Oh, and a special mention for the crunchy harmony at 3:09. Oof.
Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending
Not generally recognised as a blockbuster descant, but it totally deserves to be up there with the best of them. If your local choir hasn't dug this one out in a few years, immediately throw paper copies with reasonable force at the musical director until they agree to sing it. Do not relent.
O Little Town Of Bethlehem
When that last verse begins and the sopranos fly off into the distance, you know it's Christmas. But then, WHAM: unusual modulation on "Abide with us" and all is confusion. The only way to rectify it? A monumental rallentando and unadulterated volume. YES.
It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
Not one we immediately associate with a descant, but check out this Willcocks special. We reckon it's a pint-sized belter and one that needs to be dug out more often. Listen to these guys smash it out and tell us we're wrong.
All of these stellar descants can be heard over the festive period on Classic FM, so listen now and you can judge for yourself (but we're correct, obviously).