June 7, 2020

Let’s Discuss: Christmas Music Recommendations


Back in 2010, Jeff and I had dueling posts about our favorite Christmas music. Jeff’s top five were:

  1. Bells of Dublin, The Chieftains
  2. Christmas Portrait, The Carpenters
  3. Ultra-Lounge Christmas Cocktails, Part Two, Various Artists
  4. If On A Winter’s Night, Sting
  5. Christmas, Bruce Cockburn

He also gave honorable mentions to: A Charlie Brown Christmas, by Vince Guaraldi, Nat King Cole’s, Christmas Song, and, just for fun, Twisted Christmas, by Bob Rivers.

When I followed up with my post, I noted that Jeff focused on folk and contemporary music for his list. So I came back first with my list in those genres:

  1. Precious Child: Story of Christmas, by Thom Schuyler, Craig Bickhardt (with various artists)
  2. Christmas, Singers Unlimited
  3. New England Christmastide, Various Artists
  4. Merry Christmas, Love Honeytree, Honeytree
  5. White Christmas, Bing Crosby
  6. Ella Wishes You a Swingin’ Christmas, Ella Fitzgerald

I couldn’t stop there, however, but had to make a list of traditional favorites as well. They were:

  1. Christmas Around the World, Quink Vocal Ensemble
  2. James Galway’s Christmas Carol, James Galway
  3. Christmas Night: Carols of the Nativity, John Rutter/Cambridge Singers
  4. Christmas with the London Brass, London Brass
  5. Carols from Trinity, The Choir of Trinity College

There were numerous honorable mentions, and I also encouraged us all not to forget the classical Christmas pieces: Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah, The Nutcracker, and Britten’s Ceremony of Carols.

* * *

Charlie-brown-christmas3I have not stopped buying and listening to Christmas music since these were posted, but rather than me updating you on my more recent favorites, let’s discuss Christmas music that you have discovered in the past couple of years, which will now become a favored part of your seasonal reflections and celebrations.

It’s all yours…



  1. Rich Seidler says

    Chaplain Mike, have you heard Advent (Volumes 1 & 2) by The Brilliance? I couldn’t stop playing both last year and find myself doing the same this year…

  2. Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

    Since childhood I haven’t really been into Christmas music per se, but I keep a couple of albums around. A Charlie Brown Christmas is definitely top of that list. I hope I didn’t lose it in my move last year!

    I’ve got a neat two-CD set of Gregorian chant that includes Advent Mass Rorate, Christmas Lauds, and Christmas Mass Puer Natus Est by the Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz. It’s in my classical mix all year round.

    I tend to dig jazz guitar versions of carols and good choir-organ-and-brass-band versions, too.

  3. Daniel Pinkham’s Christmas Cantata and Corelli’s Christmas Concerto are always at the top of my list. I have always wanted to sing or direct Pinkham’s Christmas Cantata but have never had the right opportunity with choirs I have worked with and been part of.

    Elgar Howarth’s arrangement of Farnaby’s Fancies, Toyes, and Dreams is on the list too. I could never figure out if it’s supposed to be Christmas music but I love it nonetheless.

  4. Grandfather Trout says

    Christmas is the oldest time of year. There are survivals in Anglo-American Christmas culture from an older, more salutatory time. Once you leave Mother Goose behind in the nursery, Christmastime is when you are more like your deep ancestors than at any other time of the year.

    Messiah Friedrich Handel
    Christmas OratorioJ.S. Bach
    Hodie, Fantasia On Christmas Carols,and Fantasy On Greensleeves Ralph Vaughan Williams
    In The Manger Ippolitov-Ivanov, Slavic Carol Suite, Overture to Khovanshchina Modest Mussorgsky
    The Nutcracker Pyotr Tchaikovsky
    L’Inverno from The Four Seasons, Antonio Vivaldi
    Arcangelo Corelli’s Christmas Concerto

    Jethro Tull’s Christmas Album is surprisingly good and moving for a unrepentant old pagan. First Snow In Brooklyn and Ring Out Solstice Bells always find rotation in my house in December

    Sufjan Steven’s Christmas Box delights me, esp. Put The Lights On The Tree and Sister Winter

    Merry Christmas Baby . I have only heard the Otis Redding vesrion.

  5. I have been listening to Mannheim Steamroller for some years. All instrumental.
    I like a Fresh Aire Christmas the best

  6. Both Christmas albums by Over the Rhine are exceptional (and worth a listen at any time of year).

  7. How can you beat the Ultra Lounge Christmas album???

    Ok, ok. How ’bout the Cincinnati Pops “Christmas WIth The Pops”?

    Or “A Very She And Him Christmas”?

    And you cannot beat Over the Rhine’s version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

  8. Christiane says

    Christmas . . . The Christ Child Lullaby . . .

    this, I love:


  9. Because I like how their voices enhance the songs, my two favorite Christmas albums are Johnny Mathis’ “Merry Christmas” and Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.”

  10. Bonnie Rideout’s “A Scottish Christmas” is a must, as is the Netherlands Bach Society’s album “Angels and Shepherds. I’d also add Theatre of Voices’ “Carols from the Old and New Worlds” and “Down Came an Angel” by Jacqueline Schwab.

  11. I know it sounds corny, but God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Barenakedladies is pretty good.

  12. Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb of God” is a must. He graciously makes it available streaming on his website this time of year:


  13. Steve in Toronto says

    John Rutter’s Shepherd’s Pipe Carol:


  14. Steve in Toronto says

    Nick Lowe :Children, Go Where Sends Thee:


  15. Patrick Kyle says

    Here are are a couple modern renditions of old classics.

    Neil Schon’s version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel


    Robin Trower’s beautiful rendition of O Little Town of Bethlehem. (If you love Blues and old school psychedelic this is for you.)


  16. Stephen S. Mack says

    +1 for Mannheim Steamroller. It was our late son’s most hated Christmas album, but his bosses at Barnes&Noble where he worked abused him and everybody else by playing it incessantly…

    With best regards,


  17. The King’s College Choir in Cambridge, England always puts on a Christmas concert that is excellent for those who wish to hear great traditional English Christmas music.

  18. Over the Rhine’s two Christmas albums, The Darkest Night of the Year and Snow Angels are both masterpieces, imo. I would also second Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God.

    There are a number of other ones I could recommend. For more contemplative music, I really love the Windham Hill stuff. I think I have about a dozen albums from the label. Their WInter Solstice series is beautiful, as well as their Celtic Christmas. For pop, I really like Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong. Sting’s Christmas album is very good as well. In the Christian vein, I have grown away from CCM in last few years, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for all of Amy Grant’s and Michael W. Smith’s Christmas albums.

    • I should also add a few jazz pieces in there, while I think of it.

      Joe Pass’ Six String Santa has a dumb name, but Pass is amazing. Great arrangements and great playing as always.

      Diana Krall’s Christmas album is great, too.

      And, of course, Vince Giraldi on A Charlie Brown Christmas.

      I could go as I’m sort of a Christmas music junkie.

  19. Richard McNeeley says

    I am actually enjoying Bad Religion’s new release ‘Christmas Songs.”

  20. I always love the presentations of St. Olaf College on Christmas. One album I stumbled across by the Roches called “We Three Kings” is superb. Like


  21. for a just discovered group i likr ‘the piano guys; really enjoy them.

  22. I have many of the ones on both of the lists! I really can’t get enough Christmas music, I suppose. I love this one and play it a lot:


  23. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is something I have to listen to every Christmas.

  24. For my household, Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas albums have become our holiday staple and I hope them to be the songs that remind my daughter of those magical Christmases of her childhood. Growing up, my dad listened to a lot of smooth jazz in the 80’s, so it’s the GRP Christmas albums that take me back to happy Christmas mornings when I was small.

    Someone above mentioned the Diana Krall album, which I heartily second. It’s amazing.

  25. “Christmas Music Recommendations”

    Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer

  26. Kathy Mattea’s album ‘Good News’ is my favorite favorite! Absolutely beautiful! She does the best version of ‘Mary Did You Know?’ James Taylor’s ‘A Christmas Album’ is also wonderful. His version of ‘Some Children See Him’ is absolutely stunning.

  27. “An Evening in December” by the members of First Call is a hidden treasure. We got it as a Christmas gift from one of our Church of Christ friends and a couple of holiday seasons passed by before we slipped it in the tape deck. We were pleasantly surprised. It’s acapella, of course (per our Church of Christ friend) and it really holds together as a complete Christmas album.