Antidote for “Carol of the Bells”

Susanna Fraser was scheduled to post today but she is in deep deadline frenzy, making sure her new book, A Dream Defiant (coming in July, 2013) is the best it can be before delivering to her editor. Apparently, no one told her the world was ending today.

Just in case we are all still here, I’m sharing a little holiday rant.

I am sick of hearing “Carol of the Bells” used to sell stuff. I have heard it sung in different variations with banal commercial lyrics, barked by dogs, honked with car horns, hammered and buzzed with power tools.  I used to like it but now I think I need a very long break before I can hear it again without gritting my teeth.  For me, it has come to embody the commercialism of the season: the message that you can buy happiness and that Christmas is wonderful for everyone, when we all know there are people for whom it is a difficult time.

When holidays get too stressful or commercial for me, I listen to early Christmas music.  It takes me into an earlier time and to a more peaceful place in my soul.  This is music that doesn’t deny that there is suffering in the world but instead offers a sense of enduring beauty and goodness.

So yesterday, I happily spent some time searching around YouTube for some examples to share.

The first is from one of my favorites: the renowned women’s a capella group, Anonymous 4. It’s the Alleluia: “A Nywe Werke” (15th century English).

The next is a version of “Gaudete” performed by a youth choir from Harrogate, England. It’s very sweet and lovingly done.

I first heard “Riu riu chiu”, a 16th century Spanish villancico (a type of popular song), performed by the local Madrigal Choir of Binghamton. When I searched for this carol on YouTube I discovered that the Monkees had performed it in 1967! I clicked on it and, well, see for yourself.

So how about you?  If you need to de-stress during the holidays, how do you do it?  What is your favorite holiday music?  Does anyone else think we need a break from “Carol of the Bells”?


About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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6 Responses to Antidote for “Carol of the Bells”

  1. Thanks for sharing these with us, Elena! Especially the one featuring The Monkees. I had SUCH a crush on Davy Jones and I remember when this particular episode aired on television which tells you how old I am.

    Like you, I am tired of the best pieces of Christmas music and other Classical music being used to sell everything from after shave to personal hygiene products.

    I have been listening to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and sections of Handel’s Messiah for the past few weeks.

    I also have a couple of CD’s of traditional English Christmas carols from the King’s College Choir and they are absolutely heavenly.

  2. Jane George says:

    Lovely! Thanks for bringing a smile of peace to my face today. I am SO sharing the Monkees vid!

  3. librarypat says:

    My boss at the library shared a copy of this by Anonymous several years ago. It is lovely as is most of their work.
    Carol Of The Bells has been a favorite since the first time I heard it. I ignore the way it is used and look for versions that I can enjoy. I just found a lovely celtic guitar version played by Robin Bullock from the Asheville, NC area. It is played on 6 or 8 string guitar and sounds like more than one person is playing. He played some other pieces, both Christmas and others, at the concert last weekend and is wonderful. If you haven’t heard his work and like guitar, check out his music. He also adapted pieces by Bach and other early composers for just a single guitar.
    Riu Chiu by the Monkees was a pleasant surprise.

    Thanks for sharing these pieces with us.

  4. Elena Greene says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed this.

    I will have to look up some of these suggestions when I get the chance. I’m always into collecting more good holiday music.

    Pat, I am hoping to reconnect with Carol of the Bells in time, because I used to really like it!

  5. Myretta says:

    It’s the Anonymous 4 for me, Elena. I own their CD, On Yoolis Night, and it’s my go-to music for this time of year..

    But I also look forward to the Christmas mix CD that Megan’s husband Scott creates every year. It’s always a quirky departure from your typical Christmas music.

  6. Nancy B. says:

    Dear Elena:

    Wow, you almost started me on a rant about how today’s singers figuratively murder Christmas music. You certainly have my sympathy as far as hearing Carol of the Bells being done to death in the name of selling and the almighty dollar. I control what I hear by very rarely turning on the radio and recording programs on DVR in order to zip through the commercials.

    I like to de-stress at Christmas by reading romances and working jigsaw puzzles.

    I love music. Thank you for the videos and the chance to hear the early Christmas music with which I’m unfamiliar. The Monkees singing Riu Riu Chiu was a pleasant surprise. Merry Christmas.

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