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Kids Love Christmas
PIERPONT, arr. GOULD 'Jingle bells'
16th century French, arr. WILLCOCKS 'Ding dong merrily on high' 
BRITTEN 'This little babe' 
TRAD, arr. WARRELL 'We wish you a merry Christmas' 
ANDERSON 'Sleigh ride' 
HOPKINS 'We three kings of orient are' 
TCHAIKOVSKY The Nutcracker - suite, op.71a: Danse de la Fée Dragée (Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy); Danse Russe (Trepak); 'Valses des Fleurs (Waltz of the Flowers)' 
TRAD, arr. RUTTER 'Nativity carol' 
KIRKPATRICK, arr WILLCOCKS 'Away in a manger' 
BLAKE, arr. QUIRK 'Walking in the air' 
MOHR/GRUBER 'Stille nacht (silent night)' 
COOTS/GILLESPIE, arr. HAINES 'Santa Claus is coming to town' 
GAUNTLETT, arr. WILLCOCKS 'Once in Royal David's city' 
PROKOFIEV 'Troika’ from Lieutenant Kije Suite, op.60 
PLAINSONG 'Christmas fanfare' 
TRAD. Arr. David WILLCOCKS 'The first Nowell' 
TRAD. Arr. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS, 1872-1958, re-arr. David WILLCOCKS 'O little town of Bethlehem'
TRAD. Arr. Henry WALFORD DAVIES 'The holly and the ivy' 
WADE arr WILLCOCKS 'O come, all ye faithful' 
Various artists

There are so many approaches to Christmas records. In this one we are treated to a traditional 1950s Christmas. Agreed some of the material is later but the style is spot-on for the New Elizabethans. It perhaps represents what that generation of parents would want for their children – which is fair enough.

It is packaged exclusively for children but does it really hit that mark when they play or hear the disc? I doubt it. It is more for nostalgic British adults in their forties-plus than for today’s children. Or maybe I know too little about children or am too keen to generalise. Either way can we really say that today’s child will respond enthusiastically to this?

Aside from miscalculated target audience issues this is a lovely collection mixing familiar and unfamiliar. Four dances from Nutcracker are perfectly weighed, balanced and recorded to catch the Christmas frost and glisten. Rutter’s Nativity Carol is less familiar but very suitable to this company. All the hymns are done a million miles from anything pop-orientated –except for the Britten.

Adult choirs are favoured over child singers and there’s no harm to that at all. A fine treble is used for Once in Royal David’s City – one can almost see the condensation rising from these spring-heel voices. The players of Prince of Wales Brass are challenged and rise to the test for an arrangement of Walking in the Air and two other tracks that conjure images of outdoor band medleys and falling snow; there are even sleigh bells.

Enunciation in the singing is plain and BBC clear – if I can also say that about Stille Nacht allocated in the original German to Ex Cathedra Band Jeffrey Skidmore and an unnamed and equally discreet guitarist. Martin Neary and Winchester Cathedral Choir have three tracks which are mostly sedate-cum-sleepy; it’s one of the few areas of misfire although The Holly and the Ivy works rather well.

Drawing on the many recordings Tjeknavorian made for ASV we also hear the cheery and even satirical Troika from Lt Kije. Things end well with O Come, All Ye Faithful from Timothy Prosser at Emmanuel College where a sense of pressing forward is balanced with the seasonal pacing. Apart from in the orchestral items there’s little of the secular or even pagan Christmas. This is very much a Happy Christmas rather than a Merry Xmas.

A traditional 1950s-style Christmas collection but I wonder how many children will respond to this if bought for them to play in their rooms. I hope it is many more than I expect. I suspect mums and dads will soon be borrowing it back.

Rob Barnett 


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