It simply cannot be December 1st today. I know it sneaks up on me every year, but especially so this year – I’ve only just seen Show of Hands on the autumn tour, it can’t possibly be time to get the decorations up, start avoiding town on weekends, and spend upwards of an hour slowly congealing in the Minster to the glorious strains of the Advent Procession service. It cannot be the case that, yet again, I’ve missed the chance to get my Christmas shopping done in November.
Ok, no, to be fair, I can believe that last one.
Anyway, presented below please find this year’s antidote to twenty-four days of Mariah Carey, Wham!, Paul McCartney, and all the other usual suspects. The playlist is available on Spotify (Clare Rainsford: Advent 2018), and thanks to everyone who’s suggested songs for it.
1 – Hills of the North (hymn). If I don’t get to sing this in one of the two services I’m going to tomorrow, I will be terribly disappointed.
2 – E’en So Lord Jesus, Quickly Come (choral). I know this from the magnificent Advent Procession service at York Minster. It crops up on average every other year, and we had it last year, so prospects aren’t fabulous for tonight’s service.
3 – Jack Frost – Eliza Carthy (folk). Actually, I don’t know this song well, but it was one of last years’ suggestions and I’m keen to hear how it pans out.
4 – When The Thames Froze – Smith and Burrows. Confession: I’ve been listening to the album this is from since about October.
5 – Angel of Harlem – U2. Okay, this isn’t a Christmas song per se, but it’s probably my favourite U2 song, and it probably will be a cold and wet December day on the 5th.
6 – Dormi Jesu – Rutter (choral). Sorry to everyone who can’t stand Rutter – at least this is better than Candlelight Carol.
7 – Winter King – Ninebarrow. Hunting the wren is an old English folk tradition, which usually took place somewhere in the Twelve Days of Christmas. Like all English folk traditions, it is both worth remembering and utterly baffling.
8 – The Snow – Elgar (choral). Even though it will probably not be snowing on the 8th.
9 – Light The Night – Ilan Eskari / Andy Burrows. The soundtrack to the “Snowman and Snowdog” has been my absolute favourite discovery this year while making this playlist. Go away and listen to the whole thing – it’s an hour well-spent.
10 – River – Joni Mitchell.
11 – Fairytale of New York – The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl. Still the best popular Christmas song.
12 – It Feels Like Christmas (from the Muppet’s Christmas Carol). NO APOLOGIES.
13 – Lux Aurumque – Eric Whitacre (choral). Translated, the lyrics to this are: “Light / warm and heavy as pure gold / and angels sing softly / to the new-born babe.”
14 – Innocent’s Song / Gwithian – Show of Hands. I was very tempted to put this in last year, too. We spend most of Advent anticipating Christmas and Epiphany (when the Three Wise Men visited Jesus – celebrated on Jan 6th, and the end to the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas), so this is an anticipation of Holy Innocents (when Herod massacred the children in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus – marked by the church on the 28th December). Also, it’s a cracking song.
15 – The Three Kings (choral). As I say, anticipating Epiphany.
16 – Gaudete – Erasure. Gaudete Sunday, in the traditional church calendar, is a break in the season of fasting and penitence which is Advent and an invitation to reflect on the joy that is Christmas. What better way to celebrate than with a synth-pop version of a 16th century Latin carol? Translated, the chorus runs: “Rejoice, for Christ is born of the Virgin Mary – Rejoice!”. Also, the video for this song is fantastically creepy – recommended.
17 – Mary Did You Know – Pentatonix. This was my favourite discovery of last year’s playlist.
18 – The Christmas Goose – Kate Rusby. If you are of a folky bent and haven’t discovered Kate Rusby’s Christmas albums, go discover them. She’s got about four by now and does a Christmas tour each year which is well worth going to.
19 – Bethlehem Down – Kings Singers.
20 – Mele Kalikimaka – Bing Crosby. I’m surprised this song isn’t much more popular. It is, however, an earworm, so when you spend the rest of Christmas singing it, sorry. I will be too.
21 – Carol of the Bells. Much nicer to listen to than to sing alto in.
22 – Big Brave Bill Saves Christmas – Kate Rusby. For further, non-seasonal adventures of the Barnsley Superhero, check out Ms Rusby’s album Life In A Paper Boat. I’m amazed Mrs Dobbins hasn’t learnt her lesson about going abroad yet.
23 – O Magnum Mysterium – Poulenc. Props to the lovely person who finally gave me the title of this piece. It’s cropped up on Carols from Kings previously and I’ve never remembered to add it to a playlist. Until now!
24 – Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day. And so it shall.
Merry Advent, all.