Traditional Christmas carols have been a love of mine since I was a child. The beauty of them always just stopped me in my tracks. The secular Christmas songs never had the same pull for me. Sure they were familiar and comfortable and brought pleasant feelings for the season. A part of the seasonal vocabulary like drinking hot chocolate and sitting before a fire.
I had really no idea what traditional Christmas carols really meant. I had a vague awareness of Jesus and knew nothing of the theology regarding the incarnation much less anything regarding the Blessed Trinity. Still some subliminal message regarding they sacred hymns still stirred me.
You know you are getting old when you can remember singing sacred Christmas carols in a public school. I was always part of choirs and enjoyed nothing better than singing these sacred carols. Actually caroling was also a joy. My atheism was willing to dismiss anything regarding belief in God and to ridicule it. But the exception was for these traditional Christmas carols all about the birth of Christ.
So each Christmas I would turn on the radio to listen to my favorites. Every year though I was hearing less and less of my favorites and more and more of the “Christmassy” songs more about winter and a Hallmark sentiment of the season. This drove me to Protestant radio stations to get my fill. I was even willing to put up with the “Christian indoctrination” of these stations between songs. Many events in my life, especially my multitude of bad decisions, were for the first time opening me up to this “indoctrination”. Protestant radio was kind of the second movement of my conversion that I could detect.
So yes I love, love, love traditional Christmas carols and I could listen to them all month. Still over the last couple of years I have been trying to develop a more deeper advent of a time of expectation. Delaying this love of carols to a time closer to Christmas. This along with developing a deeper awareness of Christmastide and that these carols could be my joy through at least the Epiphany of the Lord.
As part of this I decide to explore music appropriate for Advent and this time of expectation and thinking about the various comings of Christ and his kingdom.
One thing that proved use for this was the “advent” of streaming music services where you pay a monthly fee for access to their catalog. So first I started to search around for traditional hymns for Advent and to build up a list of them. Then I would search for these hymns and add several versions that I liked of specific hymns to an Advent playlist that I could play and shuffle.
One of the surprises I found from doing this was that there were a bunch of traditional Advent hymns that I grew to love. Most of them I would never have heard before starting my Advent project.
I have used multiple streaming music services. Starting with Spotify, RDIO, Google Play Music, and now Apple music. So I keep rebuilding my Advent playlist. Still the catalogs for all these services are mostly the same with some exceptions so can usually find the same versions of hymns across all of them.
I’ve found though that there seem to be rather few albums available dedicated to the season of Advent, but that you could find a lot of the hymns individually mixed in with other hymns.
Of the albums I found so far these are my favorites:
Advent at Ephesus – Benedictines Of Mary, Queen Of Apostles – Pure perfection.
Advent Carols from St. John’s – Choir Of St. John’s College & Christopher Robinson
Gregorian Advent – Hubert Velten conductor Cantarte Regensburg
Advent Promise – Roger Wilcock & The London Fox Players
Music For The November Feasts – The Schola Cantorum of St. Peter’s in the Loop
So what are your favorite Advent hymns and Advent albums?