Singing the hits of the holidays

What's your favourite carol?

- December 14, 2011

Dal community members belting out the classics at a previous Dalhousie Carol Sing. (Danny Abriel photo)
Dal community members belting out the classics at a previous Dalhousie Carol Sing. (Danny Abriel photo)

‘Tis the season for holiday cheer and song.

Each year, the Dal community—staff, faculty, students, alumni and friends—gathers at the Dalhousie Arts Centre to flood the sculpture court in song. This season’s edition of the Dalhousie Carol Sing will take place next Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 12 noon, with Caron Daley, choral director in the Department of Music, leading the festivities.

The selections, as always, will be a mix of traditional and contemporary Christmas carols – plenty of familiar classics to sing along with. Lunch will be served and there will be plenty of door prizes as well. All are welcome to attend.

In advance of the Carol Sing, we sent out a request to several faculty in the Department of Music to share their favourite holiday songs. Below are a few of their responses – share your favourite in the comments!

Steve Baur (musicology - associate professor)

"We Three Kings" has been a favourite of mine since childhood.  It relies on one of the oldest tricks in the book for one of its most effective elements, the shift from the minor key of the verses to its relative major of the refrain. The "dark," "mysterious" minor key of the verses ("We three kings...") narrate the story of these strange, but wise, visitors from afar. (I was unaware of the minor key's long history as an orientalist trope in Western music when I first came to know "We Three Kings.") The verses shift to the refrain following the wonderfully anticipatory "ohhh-ohhhhhhh..." that brings us to the magical major key arrival (at "star of wonder..."). There is no doubt that this star will deliver as promised and will take these wise men to the new born king.

Eric Mathis (part-time faculty, trombone)

Although there are so many great Christmas songs out there, I have to give the nod to "Mele Kalikimaka." I moved back to the Maritimes after thirteen years in Hawaii, and found that my odds of a white Christmas had barely improved. At least in Hawaii it's a beach day!


Jacqueline Warwick (department chair, musicology - associate professor)

I grew up as an Anglican choir girl in a church with a vibrant, ambitious music program, so the experience of singing carols in harmony, with organ and descants, has always been a crucial part of Christmas. But equally, no Christmas in my home is complete without listening to some important recordings. First and foremost among these, naturally, is Phil Spector's 1963 Christmas album of favourite secular holiday songs, arguably the apex of his "wall of sound" technique, and of pre-British Invasion rock'n'roll. Tracks like the Ronettes' "Frosty the Snowman" pour out of the speakers like cake batter, irresistible to anyone hearing. The original composition on the album, Darlene Love's monumental "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" has deservedly become a classic, and—for pre-Bieber generations, anyway—the Crystals' take on "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is the definitive rock'n'roll treatment, perfectly combining teenage enthusiasm with orchestral grandeur.

What's the holiday song that tops your playlist? Share your favourite(s) in the comments.




All comments require a name and email address. You may also choose to log-in using your preferred social network or register with Disqus, the software we use for our commenting system. Join the conversation, but keep it clean, stay on the topic and be brief. Read comments policy.

comments powered by Disqus