A Very English Christmas

Nigel Short photo by Susan Porter Thomas

After vocalist Nigel Short left the renowned The King’s Singers, he founded the vocal group Tenebrae. In the fifteen years since his departure, Short and Tenebrae have been very busy. Since 2000, Tenebrae has released 26 albums.

The group’s latest recorded effort is appropriately titled A Very English Christmas because it is full of original compositions and carol arrangements by British composers from the early 20th century to today. Peter Warlock (1894 – 1930) features prominently on this recording with a total of five carols included. Contemporary organist and composer Simon Preston is represented on the CD with 3 selections. John Gardner (1917-2011) has two.

A stand-out carol from the contemporary composers that are featured on this release is The Birds by Richard Hickox. The late Hickox was a prominent conductor in England who recorded hundreds of discs for the Chandos record label. The Birds is a simple, pastoral carol that mimics the serene calls of the cuckoo, pigeon and dove.

Philip Ledger (1937-2012) led the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge for many of their famous Nine Lessons and Carols service (heard on Christmas Eve at 10 am on Classical 90.5). His setting of Adam lay ybounden receives a fine performance here as does his famous setting of On Christmas Night.

Other notable works on A Very English Christmas are Arnold Bax’s I Sing of A Maiden and No Small Wonder by Jonathan Lane. There 22 tracks in all on this 2015 release.

A Very English Christmas
Tenebrae conducted by Nigel Short
Bene Arte SIGCD902

The New Meets the Mediaeval

trio mediaeval

The group Trio Mediaeval consists of three women who met and combined their vocal forces in Oslo, Norway. The trio has released an album called Aquilonis which features some music for the Advent season. The album’s repertoire travels from Iceland to Italy, from 12th-century Italian sacred pieces to modern works written especially for the trio’s unique vocal qualities.

Classical 90.5 is featuring Aquilonis as well as other new releases during this holiday season. Enjoy this selection from an earlier recording by Trio Mediaeval:

Getting Mediaeval on your Christmas

medieval baebes

The Mediaeval Baebes originated in 1996 and was organized by singer Katharine Blake. Her idea was to combine unapologetic sexuality with traditional period performances of early vocal repertoire. During the group’s 17 year run, it has released several albums and toured around the world.

The groups latest release, Kings & Angels, is a collection of Christmas carols. The singers are joined by instrumentalists playing strings and percussion. Classical 90.5 will play this as part of our holiday music mix for 2014.

Michael Medley Holiday Recital


Louisville pianist Michael Medley presents his arrangement of holiday favorites in a live Lunchtime Classics performance. Wednesday, December 19, at noon.

Holiday Program Schedule

December 8th at 6:01pm, 9th at 2:01pm, 10th-14th at 5:01pm, 15th at 6:01pm
The Eight Nights of Chanukah: In a series of radio vignettes called The Eight Nights of Chanukah, WQXR’s Naomi Lewin tells the stories, and talks about the customs of the holiday, including the Chanukah miracle, lighting the menorah, traditional foods, and why Chanukah is so hard to spell.

December 10th
Chanukah Ear Candy: A celebratory hour of music hosted by Cantor David Lipp, and featuring composers Samuel Adler, Joshua Lind and Michael Isaacson, and violinist Itzhak Perlman.

December 13th
Chanukah Blessings: A meditative hour of blessings and liturgy associated with the Festival of Lights, as sung and composed by various artists and communities of Jewish people. Hosted by Cantor David Lipp.

December 19
Noon Lunchtime Classics with Michael Medley, piano: Louisville composer, Michael Medley performs his original arrangements of Holiday classics from his CDs “We Three…” and the newly recorded “We Four…”. “This is quintessential Christmas afternoon music, after the rubbish has been cleared, the fruit cake stored, and the special Cabernet uncorked by the fire. Grinches can save it for the next 17 inch snowfall. Medley’s unpredictable rhythm grabs your attention, and he renders individual notes that stir you like the best of singers” – John Yarmuth, Leo Magazine

December 24th

10am A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols: Hosted by Michael Barone, this is a live stereo music and spoken-word broadcast from the chapel of King’s College in Cambridge, England. The 30-voice King’s College Choir performs the legendary Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service of Biblical readings and music. Download the festival booklet here.

1pm Messiah from Trinity Church: G.F. Handel’s monumental oratorio performed in its entirety by The Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra, conducted by Julian Wachner, and hosted by WQXR’s David Garland and noted choral conductor, Kent Tritle. The concert was recorded live at Trinity Church in December of 2011. The program also features a portrait of the church and surrounding lower Manhattan community in December of 2001, just two months after the September 11th attacks.

6pm Classical 90.5 2012 Holiday Choral Festival: The broadcast of our 8th annual concert, this year featuring Louisville Vocal Project, the University of Louisville Cardinal Singers and organist Philip Brisson. View the program notes here.

8pm St. Olaf Christmas Festival: A service in song and word that has become one of the nation’s most cherished holiday celebrations. Tickets to the event, which takes place at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, are always gone months in advance. The festival includes hymns, carols, choral works, and orchestral selections celebrating the Nativity and featuring more than 500 student musicians who are members of five choirs and the St. Olaf Orchestra.

December 25th

10am Christmas with Morehouse and Spelman Glee Clubs: One of the great holiday traditions in America, the choirs of Morehouse and Spelman Colleges — two of the most prestigious historically black institutions in the nation — get together to present a spine-tingling concert program. This encore presentation features the best works of the last several years. It’s a joyous celebration of the schools’ tradition of singing excellence, with their trademark mixture of spirituals and carols. Korva Coleman hosts.

Noon St. Olaf Christmas Festival (rebroadcast)

2pm Classical 90.5 2012 Holiday Choral Festival View the program notes here.(rebroadcast)

4pm A Choral Christmas with Stile Antico: Celebrate Christmas with the sound of soaring voices. Stile Antico, the award-winning choir from London, pays a visit to St. Paul’s Church on Harvard Square for a concert of radiant sacred music for the Christmas season by the most acclaimed composers of the renaissance. Hear the group’s luminous blend of voices sing the intricately woven music of Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. Hosted by Cathy Fuller of WGBH.

6pm A Chanticleer Christmas: A one-hour celebration of the season as told through the glorious voices of Chanticleer, the 12-voice San Francisco-based men’s choir. The program spans the globe and the centuries — from England in the 1300s to new arrangements of classic and contemporary carols.

8pm A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (rebroadcast)

January 1

11am New Year’s Day from Vienna 2013: The Vienna Philharmonic presents its ever popular annual New Year’s Day concert from the Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna. You’ll hear your favorite waltzes, polkas and more — a festive way to start off the New Year. Presented by NPR Music and WGBH, Boston.