Christmas Carols have been around almost as long as the Christian music tradition - around 1600 years! For the last 80 years we have been celebrating the best and most popular songs written to celebrate this special time of year, and in 2018 you are sure to hear some of your favourites. Here are ten of Australia’s most beloved Christmas Carols.
Deck the Halls
The melody for this popular Welsh carol dates all the way back to the sixteenth century, although the English words as we know them today appeared in 1877. Believe it or not, this carol is where the phrase ‘tis the season’ originated, and remains popular among carol lovers young and old alike, despite some of the arguably silly lyrics. Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Denis Walter, Marina Prior and Debra Bryne have all nailed this traditional English carol in the history of Carols by Candlelight. The original version from 1739 was much slower and somber than how we are used to hearing it today! The modern tune is based on a work called Festgesang by popular composer Felix Mendelssohn, and is an extremely popular song included in almost all carols performances. We love the soaring soprano descant in the last verse.
O Come All Ye Faithful
The earliest version of this carol dates back to the early 1600s, and no one really knows who composed the original. The full version has NINE verses, though we usually only hear the first four. The popular arrangement that we all recognise, by composer David Willcocks, was published in 1961. Everyone loves singing along particularly in the chorus where the words ‘oh come let us adore him’ get louder and louder as we sing out with joy! Our favourite performance has to be from 2014 when Marina Prior and David Hobson knocked it out of the Bowl!
O Holy Night
O Holy Night is a 19th Century French carol popularised in the 1990s and early 2000s by singers such as Mariah Carey, Josh Groban, Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, and is almost always performed by a soloist. It is a celebration of light and hope with a range that would challenge even a professional singer. Silvie Paladino belts this one out like a champ!
One of the more recent traditional carols, Silent Night was composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber, and performed for the first time in a small Austrian town called Obendorf. Since then, the song has become one of the most popular carols among people all over the world. The 1935 version recorded by American singer and actor Bing Crosby is the third most best selling single of all time!
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
The origin of this Christmas carol lies in the English tradition where wealthy people of the community gave Christmas treats to the carolers on Christmas Eve. ‘Figgy pudding’ as described in the song is similar to our modern-day Christmas puddings. Written in 1935, this song with its simple, memorable lyrics now has many different versions and is one of the most popular Christmas songs sung by children all around the world.
Ding Dong Merrily on High
We love this joyful carol for the melodic refrain, “Glooo-or-or-or-or-or-oooor-or-or-or-or-or-oooor-ia!”, imitating the sound of church bells tolling out the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The tune to this carol is another early music piece dating from the 1500s, while the lyrics, first published in 1924, are practically modern. This song, with its intricate harmonies, is often performed by the choir at Carols By Candlelight - time for them to shine!
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph’s song was written in 1949 by Johnny Marks, the brother-in-law of Rudolph’s original creator, Robert L. May. Since then it has been performed and recorded by various popular artists such as Bing Crosby and Michael Buble. While some might call it a song just for children, we know that kids and adults alike continue to love Rudolph’s performance every year at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl!
Joy to the World
Joy to the World was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America throughout the 20th Century. It has appeared on perhaps more Christmas albums by solo artists than any other song, having been recorded by Andy Williams, the Supremes, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole, Neil Diamond, Pat Boone, Perry Como, Vic Damone, Mariah Carey and the acapella group Pentatonix, as well as many more. Sing along to it this year and feel the joy!
10. All I Want for Christmas Is You
Can you believe this song was first performed in 1994? Perhaps the most popular Christmas song of modern times, Mariah Carey’s bopping R&B number describes the need we all feel to be with our families at Christmas as more important than any gifts we could receive. Dami Im stunned everyone in 2016 with her incredible rendition at Carols by Candlelight.