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Music of the Week: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

I wouldn’t want to have to pick a favorite Christmas carol, but if I had to, I think this would be it. I think part of its appeal is the combination of the minor-key melody and lively good cheer—quite boisterous, in some performances. It’s very English and conjures all those wintry English Christmas associations that we Americans tend to love: holly, snow, and all the rest.

I’ve just spent an hour or so searching YouTube for a performance to include here. I couldn’t find my favorite, which is Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band’s, from my favorite Christmas album, A Tapestry of Carols (that’s a link to the eMusic page, where you can hear samples). One of the things I was looking for was a performance that includes all the verses. I didn’t find that, either. But here’s a good one, by the King’s College Choir (3:35):

And here, for something with a different flavor, more comparable to Maddy Prior’s, is Loreena McKennit’s version, featuring her characteristic Middle Eastern-flavored instrumentation. I have mixed feelings about her voice: it’s very good, but a bit...I don’t know, over-emotive or something. Still, this is very nice (6:49):



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