Harry Christophers / The Sixteen

A Traditional Christmas Carol Collection

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A Traditional Christmas Carol Collection is exactly what it says it is -- an assortment of mostly familiar carols in new, but comfortingly conventional arrangements with organ or guitar accompaniment. Just about the only thing nontraditional about it is the fact that "Silent Night" is not the last song, but embedded in the middle of the album. The Sixteen, a mixed ensemble led by its founder and conductor Harry Christophers, sings with dignity without being stuffy. (The group's pronunciation is decidedly English, though, so listeners who want a more American-sounding tradition should look elsewhere for their ideal Christmas carol collection.) The tone is warm, with a nice, comfortable blend; there's nothing flashy or showy to draw attention to the performers and away from the music. In this kind of collection, the quality of the arrangements is a critical factor. The extremes of extreme simplicity -- standard four-part hymn versions -- and extreme originality -- quirky and eccentric arrangements -- are easy to fall into, and the Sixteen deftly avoids both pitfalls with tasteful, chaste arrangements that have enough variety to sustain interest through the multiple verses of the carols without resorting to jarringly innovative harmonizations. ("The Coventry Carol," which exists in a number of harmonic configurations, is given a new harmonization that uses dissonance in a surprising way, but given the carol's topic, Herod's murder of the children of Bethlehem, the effect is entirely appropriate.) Coro's sound is ideally warm and clear.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 5:40
2 4:12
3 1:55
4 2:36
5 1:34
6 3:59
7 3:45
8 2:53
9 2:21
10 1:58
11 3:51
12 1:55
13 4:27
14 3:15
15 1:13
16 3:28
17 3:33
18 4:54
19 3:46
20 6:20
21 3:16
blue highlight denotes track pick