I would be very surprised if this was not one of Classic FM’s
most-played Christmas discs of the season – a glossy, highly
manicured CD with popular appeal, complete with photos of little
angelic boys in white hoodies, in a curiously contemporary take
on cherubim and seraphim.
It is performed by boys’ choir, Libera with sundry instruments
- flute, oboe, clarinet, recorder, violin, cello, percussion,
piano and (it says it all) keyboard - directed by Robert Prizeman.
Joy to the World
opens the disc with lashings of icing
sugar and sparkly silver baubles liberally strewn all over the
score. It includes other such favourites as Once in Royal
, the Coventry Carol
and First Nowell
The carols have been arranged by Robert Prizeman, again in popular
style. Some were new to me, such as Leontovych’s Carol of
, with its hints of film music and careful use
of devices to manipulate listener emotions.
The style of the boys’ singing is very breathy, and the sound
- the disc is “recorded and mixed” - heavily manufactured, with
solos brought to the fore in an artificial-sounding manner.
The boys’ intonation is generally impressive, although their
diction and enunciation occasionally leaves something to be
The spirit of commercial Christmas may be here, the spirituality
and reflection of a religious festival are not – thus the meaning
of the sacred carols is lost amidst the glitter. An example:
the supremely beautiful In Dulci Jubilo
is reduced here,
with its simplistic bass line, to something akin to the theme
tune of a children’s television show. A carol’s message is again
distorted in Veni, veni Emmanuel
, when the boys sing
the word “gaude” in an affected mystical and melancholic haze,
floating the word out mysteriously.
The disc is as sweet - harsh critics may say as sickly - as
the manufacturers, arranger, designers and producers can make
it – pure treacle. If you like your Christmas complete with
fairies, glitter, inflatable snowmen and gold-leafed angels,
this is the disc for you.