1. Bob Chilcott: The shepherd’s carol (2000)

This carol was written for The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge to a lovely anonymous modern text – the author should step up and take credit. Chilcott’s music, of magical stillness and simplicity, brings a tear to the eye every time.


2. Morten Lauridsen: O magnum mysterium (1994)

Lauridsen’s first and maybe best essay in ‘sacred loveliness’ is one of few modern Christmas motets that don’t lose themselves in over-complexity.

3. Arvo Pärt: Bogoróditse dyévo (1990)

This is an Ave Maria setting of quirky jollity and excitement, unexpected from a composer generally associated with measured, sparse solemnity. It’s almost an Estonian ‘Jingle Bells’.

4. John Tavener: Ex maria virgine (2005)

Any of the ten movements of this Christmas choral cycle would be worth including. John Tavener deserves to be recognised as the heir to Warlock and Britten as master of the English carol.

5. John David/Philip Lawson: Born on a new day (2000)

This simple, touching carol came into being when King’s Singer Philip Lawson wrote a Christmas text to John David’s 1990 song ‘You are the new day’. With Peter Knight’s perfect choral arrangement, a new Christmas classic was born.

John Rutter (2008)

Listen to the playlist here.


You can find lyrics to many of your favourite Christmas carols here