With huge thanks to the fabulous Paula Gooder, who was tweeting as @OurCofE this week, for instigating this entirely unofficial vote, and for compiling the results for us, here is the final ranking – a few predictable choices, but some lovely surprise inclusions too.
The voting rules were simple: there were no rules! People could nominate as many carols as they liked, favourited tweets were counted too, and Paula even allowed quite a bit of leeway when it came to defining what could count as a carol. Advent hymns are in, and only ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’ failed to meet the not-very-strict criteria! Enjoy…
1. In the top spot was the wonderful In the bleak midwinter, with a whopping 27 nominations. The words are by Christina Rosetti, and this is a Christmas that those of us who live in her native England will recognise: the snow may be unbiblical, but it helps those of us who dream of a white Christmas to become part of the Christmas story, to feel that it is also our story. The survey didn’t specify a particular tune, so although congregations find it easier to sing the tune by Gustav Holst, choral singers will always vote for the setting by Harold Darke.
2. The second spot fell to Of the Father’s love begotten, with 23 votes (if you’re not familiar with this one, you can hear it as sung on Songs of Praise in 1997!). The words are by the great fifth century Roman poet Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, and were translated into English by J M Neale in the 19th Century. If hymns were wine and readings were food, this is a good wine that would be recommended with a main course of John 1.1-14.
3. At number 3 was It Came upon the Midnight Clear, with 19 votes. It was written in 1849 by a Unitarian pastor from Massachussetts, Edmund Sears. Many who nominated this carol did so for the hope it brings of an ever-present angelic song in the midst of human sin and conflict.
=4. Hark! The herald angels sing was always going to make the top ten. With harmonies by Mendelssohn, and words by Charles Wesley, what’s not to like? Surprisingly, though, our number four carols only received 11 nominations.
=4. In equal fourth place was O Holy Night. Much recorded, variously arranged, well sung it delivers a well-aimed shiver down all but the hardiest of spines.
The best of the rest… here’s the full list:
With 9 nominations:
Silent Night – always popular, but this year with special significance during the WW1 centenery.
With 8 nominations:
O Come all ye faithful – many people mentioned the glorious last verse that we can only sing on Christmas day!
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
With 6 nominations:
Joy to the World
The Angel Gabriel
O Little Town of Bethlehem
With 5 nominations:
Jesus Christ the Apple Tree (we’re assuming it’s the Elizabeth Poston version)
With 4 nomination:
Bethlehem Down (with fabulous music by Peter Warlock)
With 3 nominations:
Fairy Tale in New York
God Rest ye merry, Gentlemen
Hills of the North Rejoice
I saw three ships
In Dulci Jubilo
Let all mortal flesh keep silent
Once in Royal David’s City
With 2 nominations:
A spotless Rose
Angels from the realms of glory
The Three Kings (Peter Cornelius)
Whence is this Stupendous Stranger
While Shepherds Watched their Flocks
And finally with just 1 nomination each:
A Great and Mighty Wonder
Away in a Manger
Born in the Night Mary’s Child
Christ Be our Light (Bernadette Farrell)
Glorious Light (Krystyn Getty et al)
Good King Wenceslas
Hee Haw Hee Haw doesn’t anybody care?
Lo He comes with Clouds Descending
Make Way for Christmas (Kendrick)
Quelle est cette odeur
Ring out the Bells at Christmas time
The First Noel
The Silver Stars
This is the Truth sent from Above
Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy
Wake O Wake with Tidings Thrilling
We Three Kings
What Sweeter Music (Rutter)
When Love Came down to Earth
Come and join the celebration
My take on the list? There are quite a few carols that we sing a lot, that really didn’t get that many nominations (Away in a manger springs to mind), and others that were really well supported but don’t seem to make it into our carol services as often as they deserve (Of the Father’s love begotten). What do you think? Was your favourite carol missing from the list, or under-appreciated? Tell us in a comment! And more importantly, tell us why your chosen carol means so much to you, and what it say about the heart of Christmas.