The general public may think that Christmas carols have been around forever. Music lovers know that the Victorian Era is the source for most of the evergreen carols we still sing today.

Carols for Victorian Christmas captures some of the charms of the era. The disc presents both sacred and secular carols as they might have been heard in the late 1800’s. The choir of Magdalen College, Oxford performs favorites such as “We Three Kings,” “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” and “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.”

The Harrogate Choral Society’s rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” is charming in its directness and sincerity.

The Fine Arts Brass Ensemble perform “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Landlord fill the Flowing Bowl.” Martin Souter, organist contributes a Brahms chorale prelude, “O Holy Night,” and other selections. The mix of organ and choir reinforces the impression of a Victorian church service.

But the disc also includes a player piano plunking out “Auld Lang Syne.” Vintage turn of the century disc players (large-scale music boxes) give us favorites such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and “Good King Wenceslas.” And they also give us a sense of what holiday music might have sounded like in a comfortable upper-class home.

And comfortable, I think, is the word that best describes this collection. Many of the selections are more than familiar. And they’re performed in a way that would have been familiar to Victorians – even those who never attended a classical music concert.

Carols for a Victorian Christmas was originally released in 2004.

Carols for a Victorian Christmas
The Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford; Martin Souter, organ; Fine Arts Brass Ensemble; Lesley Echo Ross, soprano; Harrogate Choral Society
The Gift of Music