Christmas music

11 Modern Choral Hymn Settings for Christmas

11 Modern Choral Hymn Settings for Christmas

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.

Christmas Planning

It's never too early to start planning for Christmas!  Such is the choir director's life, at least.  I love summer planning.  Recently, I've been perusing all the sampler catalogs that have come in the mail over the past month, listening to the demo CDs, searching Pepperfor inspiration, and writing down theme ideas.  In my search for old Christmas hymns and texts, I discovered this gorgeous poem:

"Light of the world, we hail Thee Flushing the eastern skies; Never shall darkness veil Thee Again from human eyes; Too long, alas, withholden, Now spread from shore to shore, Thy light so glad and golden, Shall set on earth no more.

Light of the world, before Thee Our spirits prostrate fall; We worship, we adore Thee, Thou Light, the life of all, With Thee is no forgetting Of all Thine hand hath made; Thy rising hath no setting, Thy sunshine hath no shade.

Light of the world, illumine This darkened land of Thine, Till everything that's human Be filled with what's divine; Till every tongue and nation, From sin's dominion free, Rise in the new creation Which springs from Love and Thee. Amen."

- Rev. J.S.B. Monsell, 1863 (from The Sunday School Book)

My current list of traditional hymns/carols:

  • Coventry Carol
  • Once in Royal David's City
  • Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light
  • O Sing a Song of Bethlehem
  • Sing We Now of Christmas

As for other pieces, I love:

  • Before the Marvel of This Night (Carl Schalk)
  • Of the Father's Love Begotten (Jay Rouse - listen to it here)
  • All My Heart This Night Rejoices (Leo Nestor - listen to it here)
  • The Yearning (Craig Courtney - listen to it here).

And if you think I'm crazy now, just wait until next month!  Christmas folder assembly, Christmas decorations for the kick-off, and Christmas cookie-baking!  Merry Christmas, y'all!