The Golden Age of Light Music: A Carol Symphony - Music for the Festive Season
rec. 1951-62

This delightful, seasonal offering has sourced several LPs the better to compile a representative collection full of brio and liveliness. The spine of the programme comes from Frank Chacksfield, whose Christmas album on a Richmond LP renders nine tracks. Billy Vaughn is represented by three cuts from a Dot LP released, like the Chacksfield, in stereo. Similarly there are a trio of sides from Melachrino, from RCA LSP2044 and a quartet of pieces from a Stanley Black Decca disc released in 1956.

The remaining three tracks from the Chacksfield LP have already been released on Guild GLCD5222 (review). Whilst it seems a shame to have split them, no one can complain about their inclusion here, as they provide a sequence of enchantingly orchestrated numbers – the work of Leon Young - captured with great fidelity via that stereo sound. Rich orchestral brass and lustrous strings animate Adeste Fidelis whilst the strings, especially, insinuate in Silent Night. The witty winds can be heard to advantage in God Rest ye Merry, Gentlemen whilst one best appreciates the level of Young’s colour-conscious arranging skills in Good Christian Men Rejoice, which is genial as well as embodying a degree of pathos. The Golden Carol – also known as Greensleeves – receives a luxurious treatment. The instrumental soloists are so good, it makes me very curious to know if there is an existing personnel for Chacksfield’s orchestras from the 1950s onwards.

Billy Vaughn’s arrangements can’t help but sound a touch brash after this, though they don’t lack charm, whilst the Melachrino trio are imbued with solid brassy flair – there’s even an organ in Hark, The Herald Angels Sing. Stanley Black fuses languor – Winter Wonderland - with pert wit in I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. The Czech maestro Dalibor Brázda makes a single striking appearance with his Supraphon cut of The Skaters’ Waltz with a fine orchestra – one of his other bands, the Magic Strings even included a contingent from the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.

The longest single work is Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s A Carol Symphony. This has been recorded in recent years but the 1951 Paxton 78rpm set was probably the first place listeners heard it. This seamless four-movement symphony threads tunes like The Coventry Carol and Adeste Fideles amongst several others, spiced with deft colour and a truly festive close. It’s always good to come back to this cleverly threaded composition.

Guild has provided excellent transfers here and very accomplished notes from Alan Bunting as well in this tempting seasonal feast of music.

Jonathan Woolf
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1. Adeste Fidelis (O Come All Ye Faithful) (Wade) [3:00]
2. Silent Night (Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht) (Mohr; Gruber) [3:37]
3. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (Traditional) [2:34]
4. Once In Royal David's City (Gauntlett) [2:51]
5. Good King Wenceslas (Tempest Adest Floridum) (Traditional) [2:11]
6. Good Christian Men Rejoice (Traditional) [1:59]
7. Away In A Manger (Traditional) [2:25]
8. The First Noel (The First Nowell) (Traditional) [2:39]
9. The Golden Carol (Greensleeves) (Traditional) [2:32]
Frank Chacksfield and His Orchestra
10. Faith of Our Fathers (Faber) [2:30]
11. O Holy Night (Cantique de Noel) (Adam) [2:25]
12. O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree) (Traditional) [1:40]
Billy Vaughn and His Orchestra
13. Joy To The World (Handel; Mason; Watts) [3:42]
14. Hark, The Herald Angels Sing (Wesley; Mendelssohn) [2:24]
15. Jingle Bells (Pierpont) [2:37]
The Melachrino Orchestra/George Melachrino
16. Les Patineurs (The Skaters' Waltz) (Waldteufel) [5:30]
Dalibor Brázda and His Orchestra
17. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (Connor) [2:20]
18. Christmas Alphabet (Buddy Kaye / Jules Loman) [2:18]
19. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (John D Marks) [2:25]
20. Winter Wonderland (Felix Bernard) [3:05]
Stanley Black & His Orchestra
21-24. A Carol Symphony (Victor Hely-Hutchinson) [23:37]
The Metropole Symphony Orchestra/Dolf Van Der Linden