Christmas Carols


A new album bringing classic carols to life under the expert direction of conductor and author Andrew Gant, marking the release later this year of his new book “Christmas Carols, from Village Green to Church Choir”.

Everyone loves a carol – in the end, even Scrooge. They have the power to summon up a special kind of midwinter mood, like the aroma of mince pies and mulled wine and the twinkle of lights on a tree. It’s a kind of magic.

In this new accompanying recording, Andrew Gant’s choir Vox Turturis bring these carols to life with captivating performances of classics such as ‘The Angel Gabriel’, ‘Adeste fideles’ and ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ as well as less-known gems like ‘Ce?le?brons la naissance’, ‘Les anges dans nos campagnes’ and ‘Tempus adest floridum’. The CD booklet also includes a short essay by Gant highlighting some of the fascinating stories behind these works.

Christmas Carols brims with anecdote, expert knowledge and Christmas spirit. It is a fittingly joyous account of one of our best-loved musical traditions.


What people are saying

"The recording debut of Gant’s youthful professional choir is a spirited one" The Sunday Times, December 2014

"The acoustic of St Peter’s College Chapel serves these singers well, and the recorded sound is glorious." The Arts Desk, December 2014

"This is another well-planned and splendidly performed CD, eminently recommendable." International Record Review, December 2014

Vox Turturis, Andrew Gant

Release date:6th Nov 2014
Order code:SIGCD387
Barcode: 635212038727

"… sweet-toned performances … The acoustic of St Peter’s College Chapel serves these singers well, and the recorded sound is glorious." The Arts Desk, December 2014

Conductor and author Andrew Gant brings classic carols to life with his choir Vox Turturis. Performances include hardy annuals such as The Angel Gabriel, Adeste fideles and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, as well as lesser known gems such as Celebrons la naissance and Tempus adest floridum. The CD booklet includes an essay highlighting some of the fascinating stories behind the works. An ideal stocking filler.

Northern Echo, Gavin Engelbrecht

‘Tis the season for Christmas carols, whose words and tunes we know so well (mulled wine not withstanding). But how well do we really know them?

Composer and academic Andrew Gant researched some 20 of the festive ditties and found a rich seam of arcane history revealed in a book published by Profile and a recording from Signum performed by his Voc Turturis choir – both titled Christmas Carols: from Village Green to Church Choir. 

‘It is easy to think that carols are what they always were, because they are so familiar,’ he says. But once you start to scrape away at where the words and tunes came from and who changed them and why, you find all sorts of interesting stories.’

A striking example is O Little Town of Bethlehem. The words were written by Phillips Brooks, an American clergyman who used his funeral oration for Abraham Lincoln to vehemently condemn slavery and eulogise the assassinated president as ‘this most American of Americans’. 

‘After the bloodshed and horrors of the civil war, he took himself off to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage and was so moved by the peace and calm he found in Bethlehem that he wrote this poem about it’, Gant explains. 

His church organist, Lewis Redner, set it to music and that is the version still sung in the US. However, the British version came from Vaughan Williams’ folk song-collecting efforts. He set the words to the tune of a song about a wayward farm boy who is sent to hell for driving his plough into a bog.

‘So what we sing as this rather sweet, innocent hymn is set to a completely different tune – it is a strange marriage.’

Gant believes such changes emerge from Christmas carols being the remnant of the ancient tradition of handing down traditions orally. ‘The words of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing are quite a bit different from what Charles Wesley originally wrote, because people have changed a bit here and a bit there, and it just keeps on going. And the tune was also adapted from what was originally written. You can’t give a reason; it is just the way we do it.’

Classical Music Feature

Vox Turturis’s director Andrew Gant describes this anthology as "a celebration … an exercise in stripping away the layers of accretion which these much-loved tunes have gathered over the centuries". There’s more celebration than austerity in these sweet-toned performances, mostly sung in unfussy, unaccompanied arrangements. Gant’s 24 traditional carols are smartly arranged to tell the nativity story in sequence. Highlights include meltingly beautiful performances of "Celebrons la naissance" and "Les anges dans nos campagnes", and two contrasting settings of "Away in a Manger". There are a few juicy, loud moments. Mendelssohn’s ripe version of "Hark! The Herald Angel’s Sing" may startle the unwary, but the prevailing mood is calm and restrained. Until an ingenious arrangement of "A Merry Christmas" and a bracing take on the spring carol "Tempus adest floridum" brings things to a close. The acoustic of St Peter’s College Chapel serves these singers well, and the recorded sound is glorious. 

The Arts Desk, Graham Rickson

The recording debut of Gant’s youthful professional choir is a spirited one, encompassing both the popular folksy carols (The Holly and the Ivy, I Saw Three Ships, The Twelve Days of Christmas) and some fine "church" carols in unfamiliar guises: In dulci jubilo sung in a Latin/German version, and Adeste fideles entirely in Latin. Especially delightful is Gant’s medley arrangement of A Merry Christmas, incorporating snatches of Deck the Halls, Ding Dong Merrily on High and Away in a Manger.

Hugh Cairns, The Sunday Times

 Christmas Carols from Village Green to Church Choir is the title of a new Signum Release featuring the vocal ensemble Vox Turturis and organist David Quinn, directed by Andrew Gant. The rather parochial title encapsulates this collection admirably, which mainly features traditional seasonal carols and songs in both familiar and suitable new arrangements: the new has not been cast too widely, as can happen in ‘Christmas releases’ we sometimes encounter; the choice is a clever one. My favourite tracks here are the traditional Veni, Veni Emmanuel and O Tannenbaum (which, sung wholly a cappella by the vocal ensemble, is exceptionally well done). Gant’s own What Child is this? for solo soprano, solo tenor, choir and organ sits well within this collection, being a setting of nineteenth-century poem originally to ‘fit’ the Greensleeves tune. This is another well-planned and splendidly performed CD, eminently recommendable.

International Record Review

  1. The Angel Gabriel – Anonymous – 2.29
  2. Veni, Veni, Emmanuel – Anonymous, Thomas Helmore, Andrew Gant – 3.19
  3. O Tannenbaum – Anonymous – 2.57
  4. The Holly and the Ivy – Anonymous, Henry Walford Davies – 3.09
  5. I Saw Three Ships – Anonymous – 2.12
  6. O Little Town of Bethlehem – Anonymous, Ralph Vaughan Williams – 3.49
  7. In dulci jubilo – Anonymous, Carl Thiel – 2.29
  8. Adeste, fideles – Anonymous, Andrew Gant – 4.01
  9. While Shepherds Watched – Anonymous – 2.35
  10. The Fleecy Care – Anonymous, Andrew Gant – 3.01
  11. While Shepherds Watched – Anonymous – 1.09
  12. Ding-Dong, Merrily – Anonymous, Charles Wood – 2.07
  13. C?l?brons la naissance – Jehan Tabourot, Peter Warlock, Andrew Gant – 2.12
  14. Les anges dans nos campagnes – Anonymous, Andrew Gant – 3.44
  15. Hark, the Herald – Felix Mendelssohn, William Cummings – 3.15
  16. The Christ-child’s Lullaby – Anonymous, Andrew Gant – 2.56
  17. Still, still, still – Anonymous, Andrew Gant – 2.23
  18. Away in a Manger – Anonymous – 3.14
  19. Away in a Manger – William Kirkpatrick, James Murray – 3.04
  20. Personent hodie – Anonymous, Andrew Gant – 1.49
  21. The Twelve days of Christmas – Frederic Austin – 3.44
  22. What child is this? – Andrew Gant – 4.19
  23. A Merry Christmas – Anonymous, Andrew Gant – 1.46
  24. Tempus adest floridum (spring carol) – Anonymous, Andrew Gant – 2.01