If you’re an Australian vocal performer or musician, there is absolutely no doubt that Christmas is a busy time for you. As well as the normal family and work commitments approaching December 25, the musical celebrations of the holiday season will likely also be a stress on your time.
If you are like me and can’t resist saying “yes!” to performing for every Carols ceremony that will have you, it might be a good idea to look at increasing your repertoire to include a few relatively obscure Christmas songs in your set list. In addition to the traditional tunes everybody knows and loves, it’s great to give yourself a challenge and spread joy and cheer through non-traditional carols.
Read below for a few under-performed Christmas song recommendations, and let us know if you have any suggestions for the list!
- ‘Christmas Lullaby’ – Jason Robert Brown.
Although the context of this song isn’t necessarily clear to everyone who listens to it, ‘Christmas Lullaby’ is about a young woman who discovers she is pregnant and consequently sings a soaring ballad about what this baby could represent to her. Parallels are drawn between the Virgin Mary and the woman performing this piece, with the power and passion of motherhood exalted throughout. You can read more on JRB’s intention for the performance of the song here.
- ‘Panis Angelicus’ – César Franck.
If you’re looking to present a classical song at Christmastime, ‘Panis Angelicus’ should be your first choice. This tempo is a little slow for my taste, but the swell in the music is equally gorgeous for any voice type.
- ‘Still, Still, Still/The First Noel’ – Lynne Shankel.
‘Still, Still, Still’ mashed with ‘The First Noel’ is the prettiest Christmas lullaby and feels like the perfect accompaniment for the moment when Carols programming changes from children’s entertainment to content aimed at an adult audience. Sheet music for this particular arrangement can be found here, and either song can be performed by itself (‘Still, Still, Still’ is absolute perfection in German).
- ‘My Grown Up Christmas List’ – David Foster and Linda Thompson-Jenner.
Sylvie Paladino can always be counted on to perform the best song of any Carols ceremony, and it is not only her glorious voice that makes this observation a rule. Paladino is always the artist chosen to lead the least-known song of the night, and the choice to allow her to stray from the norm pays off enormously. ‘My Grown Up Christmas List’ is a favourite of mine, as in the next entry in this list, also brought to my attention by Paladino.
- ‘Your Grace Still Amazes Me’ – Phillips, Craig and Dean.
This song is gorgeous with full orchestrations, but works equally well with sparse, or no accompaniment.
- ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ – Frank Loesser.
Overdone everywhere but Australia, this song is a sorely missed favourite in any Carols performance. We all get it – songs about snow are a risky choice for Australian Christmas. Songs about burning our feet on the hot asphalt would resonate with our experiences more than a Winter-based narrative, but we are smart enough to recognise international representations of Christmas as love them as much as our own. Feminist points can be scored for the performance of this song if the woman plays it as a tease rather than a gradual wearing down of her sexual autonomy, or if the piece is gender-swapped (something along the lines of the above).
7. The Holy City (Jerusalem)’ – Stephen Adams and Frederic Weatherly.
Although we’ve all seen David Hobson perform it a million times, this song is far from classic repertoire for any other singer. I would love to hear more of it at community Carols events, especially the slightly modernised version with the military beat in the chorus that makes your heart feel as though it will begin beating outside of your chest.
8. ‘I Got All I Need (This Christmas)’ – Lynne Shankel.
An incredibly upbeat, flirtatious Christmas duet, this song calls for a full pop band (including brass instruments) instead of the normal orchestra, and two modern musical theatre belt voices. The song is so new that it is nearly completely obscure in Australia, so I would love to hear it performed at a big Carols event in the near future. Sheet music can be purchased here.
9. ‘Feliz Navidad’ – Jose Feliciano.
I’m beyond sick of all Carols by Candlelight events finishing with fifty versus of ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’. This song is just as repetitive, but has a more lively beat behind it. If you want to send your audience home with a song stuck in their heads for a month, then this is the one.