But until I get a chance to sit down with a cup of tea and the magazine in a clean, well-lit place (that happens to be quiet, too, my first requirement), I'll have to rely on recent experiences to share some new favorite holiday music.
Just yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing several friends sing in a local "Christmas chorus" concert. The program featured French carols, and, besides Noël Nouvelet, a favorite I wrote about last year, one of songs the group sang was The Basque Carol, or Gabriel's Message. One reason my ears perked up when this song started was that it is also on Sting's new CD, If on a Winter's Night. While the traditional arrangement that the chorus sang is lovely in and of itself, what Sting has done with the song makes it sound both more introspective than the usual hymn-like form the song takes and also reflective of what is probably the melody's origin: 12th or 13th century chant.
An interesting compare-and-contrast exercise is listening, in succession, to Sting's 2009 version of the carol, and his 1989 version, on the multi-artist CD, A Very Special Christmas.
While both have their merits (nostalgia being foremost when I listen to the one from two decades ago), I have a decided preference for the later one.
Another new favorite from Sting's 2009 CD is the second track, There is No Rose of Such Virtue, which, like Gabriel's Message, also has its roots in the Middles Ages, though this song likely began in a royal court rather than a monastery. Beginning with a quiet open fifth drone, Sting uses his newly-outed baritone voice to sing an entire verse virtually unaccompanied. And then the world beat kicks in and it becomes a whole new, gorgeously presented song. Even after listening to it a few dozen times, I still feel a little zing when the song transitions.