11 Modern Choral Hymn Settings for Christmas

11 Modern Choral Hymn Settings for Christmas-54.png

Fall is in the air (literally, here in Rochester). The nights are cool, the pumpkins and mums are out, and Fall cups are back at Starbucks.

This can mean only one thing: it’s time to start listening to Christmas music. Naturally.

Every year around this time, I spend some time browsing online music catalogs and listening to a variety of Advent and Christmas anthems: seeing what’s new, discovering old favorites, and looking for inspiration (you, too?). Not necessarily because I need to buy something; perhaps more out of curiosity. 

In my recent perusing, I was struck by the number of traditional hymns and carols I found that have been reimagined and creatively set in fresh, modern ways. So, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you. I tried to include a variety of anthems in this list - most are SATB (some with divisi, others without), but there’s one SAB and one 2-part anthem in the mix, as well. Hope you find something you can use with your choir this year!

Whether you’re in the not-quite-done-with-my-Christmas-planning-yet camp or the I-could-use-a-little-seasonal-inspiration, I hope you enjoy listening to and browsing these modern hymn arrangements.

Looking for something new and different this year? Here are eleven modern hymn and carol settings for Christmas (and Advent) you might consider:


11 Modern Choral Hymn Settings for Christmas (and Advent)

01  |  What Child Is This?
SATB Choir with piano
arr. Molly Ijames

New and interesting harmonies in the choral parts and the piano accompaniment. Rich and full.

02  |  O Little Town of Bethlehem
SATB Choir with piano and soprano saxophone (or Bb clarinet or oboe)
arr. Dan Forrest

A spacious instrumental accompaniment provides a modern musical landscape for the familiar text and tune (ST LOUIS) of this carol (with a few slight changes). The instrumental obbligato adds color and melodic interest throughout.

03  |  How Far Is It To Bethlehem?
SATB or 2-Part Choir with Piano
arr. Molly Ijames

A beautiful, accessible arrangement of this traditional carol with fresh harmonies and interesting piano accompaniment.

04  |  How Great Our Joy (While By My Sheep)
SATB Choir (divisi) with piano and opt. string quartet
Craig Courtney

A captivating, reverent setting of this carol (based on the original hymn tune, JUNGST). Quiet and restrained beauty.

05  |  Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
SATB Choir with piano
arr. Howard Helvey

If you’re looking for an accompanied version of this piece, here’s one you might consider. Fairly traditional choral parts paired with a new and creative piano accompaniment. Tender and beautiful.

06  |  Angels in Seven
SATB Choir with piano and cello
arr. Philip Kern

A fun, rhythmically-challenging setting of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" (in 7/8 meter) with energetic piano accompaniment and clever part-writing.

07  |  Silent Night
SATB Choir with piano
arr. Peter Anglea

Looking for a new, creative approach to perhaps the most well-known of Christmas carols? Peter Anglea sets the traditional text to a new tune with modern harmonies and flowing accompaniment. The anthem incorporates the traditional STILLE NACHT tune (with a few fresh harmonies) in the middle.

08  |  Angels From the Realms of Glory
SATB Choir with piano 4-hand and opt. violin and percussion
arr. Dan Forrest

A sparkling setting of this traditional carol. Constant movement in the accompaniment creates a sense of joy and excitement to underscore the text.

09  |  Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
SATB Choir with piano 4-hand or organ and opt. handbells, percussion, and brass quintet
arr. Dan Forrest

A creative interpretation of this joyful carol with sparkling piano 4-hand accompaniment, majestic brass, percussion, and handbell parts, and rich choral harmonies, including a soprano descant at the end.

10  |  While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
SATB Choir (divisi) with piano
Craig Courtney

Rich choral writing, including a few brilliant cluster chords, and striking, but very lyrical piano accompaniment. A new musical setting of the traditional text. Similar in style to How Great Our Joy (see #4 above).

11  |  The First Noel
SATB Choir with piano
arr. Dan Forrest

Light and lyrical choral writing with a music-box-like piano accompaniment in the beginning. Long, sweeping phrases and slow dynamic swells add drama and a quiet reverence to this Christmas favorite. 


Are you familiar with any of these anthems? Which one is your favorite?

P.S. See my list of favorite Advent anthems (including a few from this post + about 10 more) here.

*This post includes affiliate links, which means if you purchase through some of the links above, Sheet Music Plus will pay me a small fee for referring you to them at no extra cost to you. Win-win!