If the combination of boys' voices, flutes in thirds, little bells, and harps sounds like Christmas to you, this disc called The Holly and the Ivy will sound just like Christmas. Performed by the Clare College Choir and Orchestra under the direction of John Rutter before he left to form his own choir, these performances are sweet, sincere, and thoroughly enjoyable. Although some of the works were arranged by David Willcocks, most were arranged by Rutter, and thus most are not only satisfying in their own right but great fun to sing along with. The works themselves range across Europe from the Dutch "King Jesus hath a Garden" to the Basque "Gabriel's Message" to the Flemish "Cradle Song" to the English "Wassail Song" and, of course, "The Holly and the Ivy." Some die-hard Scrooges might complain that the arrangements are perhaps a bit too pretty and possibly at times even a tad too sappy, but to those who love Christmas and Christmas music, these superficial criticisms will seem entirely beside the point. Recorded in 1979 by Decca, the sound of this disc is deep, warm, and full with a nice sense of place and time. If you're only going to have one disc of distinctly English Christmas music beyond the Messiah, this is the disc to have.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Children's Songs (16) for voice & piano, Op. 54|
Wassail Song ("We've been awhile awandering"), song for chorus (English Folksongs for chorus No. 5; Traditional English Carols No. 8)