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Collections of Christmas Carols

Unusual Carols Page

Carols for Today

Carols for Choirs

New Oxford Book


I recommend three collections of carols, each with a different strength:

The collection Carols for Today, by Jubilate Hymns, edited by Michael Perry and David Iliff (Hodder and Stoughton, London/Sydney/Auckland/Toronto 1987). The editors are evangelical Christians who desire to provide both good music and clear Christian teaching for use in worship from Advent to Epiphany. The emphasis is on usefulness for the church today; consequently, there are numerous new carols (13 by Timothy Dudley-Smith) and contemporary settings of older texts. The editors also link some traditional, secular tunes of the season with contemporary words appropriate for Christian worship. All in all, a marvelous resource, containing more than 180 carols and over 30 pages of suggested readings for use in services. Although this book is out of print, it is frequently available through ABE Books. Follow the link and search for the title. About one-third of these carols are also included in Hymns for Today's Church, edited by Michael Baughan, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1987. This fine hymnal is still available through Amazon UK, and other booksellers in Britain.


Carols for Choirs, in its various incarnations, is the most widely used compilation of carols for choral singing. The arrangements and descants of David Willcocks and his associates are contemporary and lovely. Volumes 1, 2, and 3 each contain 50 carols set primarily for SATB singing, mostly traditional but some modern, mostly sacred but some secular. Volume 4 contains 50 carols for SA only, and is appropriate for use with both women's and children's choirs. 100 Carols for Choirs is primarily a selection of popular carols from the first three volumes, but also includes 24 carols new to the series. Click here for lists of the carols contained in each volume. Follow these links to order via Amazon: Carols for Choirs Volume 1; Volume 2; Volume 3; Volume 4; 100 Carols for Choirs. For a two-CD set of Willcocks conducting 37 of the carols contained in these volumes, follow this link.


The New Oxford Book of Carols edited by Hugh Keyte and Andrew Parrott (Oxford Univ Press, NY & Oxford, 1992), is an amazing work. More than 700 pages long, this volume contains over 200 carols (see the contents), along with a discussion of their history, suggestions for performance, and, often, more than one musical setting (for example, seven settings for "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks"). The historical notes frequently are extensive (approximately 2700 words for "While Shepherds Watched"); many of these tidbits are fascinating and, at times, amusing:

The collection is unusually strong on carols from the Middle Ages and pre-1700 Europe. Many secular carols are included. The editors have a strong preference for historically-accurate performances, and speak with some disdain of Willcocks' contemporary arrangements. Similarly, the 20th century selections are rather thin, and surprisingly include nothing by Dudley-Smith. Nevertheless, this is a unique collection that will provide hours and hours of enjoyment both for reading and playing music for anyone who loves carols. Order the main book in paperback or hardback (the latter is quite expensive). Since it's rather difficult to sing from a 700-page book, the publishers also offer a briefer version, containing about half the number of carols, and leaving out the historical notes. Order that version here.


Unusual Carols Page

Carols for Today

Carols for Choirs

New Oxford Book


Christmas stories page

Reponsive prayer for the Christmas season

Example program for Christmas Eve/seasonal service

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Copyright © 1999, Thomas C. Pinckney.