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We asked Classic FM presenters about their favourite carols and why they mean so much to all of us...
John Suchet on ‘Once In Royal David’s City’
“I’ve chosen Once In Royal David’s City, and what sets this beautiful carol apart from all others is the solo boy soprano opening. That single verse, sung well, never fails to send a tingle down the spine. No other voices, no organ, just the sweet high tones of the lone voice. At the age of eight, at my prep school, I was chosen to sing that verse. The small chapel was filled with parents. It was the first starring singing moment of my life. And my last. Every time I hear it now I marvel at its beauty, and blush at my failed attempt at it.”
A piano and string arrangement of “Once In Royal David’s City” features on Classic FM’s new Christmas album Silent Nights, by Nigel Hess.
Margherita Taylor on ‘Silent Night’
“I love the romance and legends that have grown up around the origins and history of this beautiful carol. Composed on Christmas Eve in 1818, just in time for midnight mass, the music was written by Austrian Franz Xaver Gruber to the lyrics of Joseph Mohr. The original arrangement was for guitar and, although the story goes that this was because the church organ was broken, there are no official records.
It’s amazing to think that the singing of this beautiful and simple piece of music, known to troops on all sides, helped halt the fighting in the trenches during the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day of 1914. I think it’s the beautiful, peaceful, simplicity of this piece which has seen it translated into 44 languages and recorded by over 300 artists. However hectic your Christmas gets hearing this piece really helps remind you what it’s all about.”
A piano and string arrangement of 'Silent Night' features on Classic FM’s new Christmas album Silent Nights, by Nigel Hess.
John Brunning on ‘Ding Dong! Merrily On High’
“Ding Dong! Merrily On High is a traditional Christmas carol, with lyrics from English composer George Ratcliffe Woodward, first published in 1924. Unsurprisingly, one of Woodward’s hobbies was church bell ringing. I love Ding Dong! Merrily On High’s uplifting melody and, even though the equally positive words are absent in Nigel Hess’ latest arrangement, I can hear them in my mind as I listen to the music. The unbridled mood of celebration the piece evokes still gives me festive goosebumps, even after all these years.”
A piano and string arrangement of “Ding Dong! Merrily On High” features on Classic FM’s new Christmas album Silent Nights, by Nigel Hess.