Posts Tagged ‘Kate Rusby’

Christmas music recommendations

December 27, 2018

Now that the Christmas season is upon us, I’d like to recommend two wonderful discs of Christmas music that have brought me much pleasure over the past few years.



The first is RÓS: Songs of Christmas, from the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir, a group of which you’ve probably not been previously aware. The music is a blend of things you’d think wouldn’t work well together, and you’d be wrong. The disc begins with a Norwegian-language rendition of Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming (called Det hev ei rose sprunge), as lovely a version as you’re ever likely to hear. The centerpiece is a “suite for Christmas” which interweaves the ecstatic melodies of St Hildegard von Bingen with carols, sung in a manner inspired by the Norwegian folk tradition. The arrangements of St Hildegard’s music are unusually rustic, and the carol arrangements are unusually elaborate, which helps to bridge the gap between these two very different musical realms. Of course, you and I don’t speak Norwegian, but it hardly matters: the warmth and happy good cheer of this music are such that it could be nothing but Christmas music, and this disc is among the most joyful and delightful collections of Christmas music known to me. Here is a featurette about the disc:



Kate Rusby has made a few Christmas records, but I’m partial to Sweet Bells. She is a bright light on the English folk music scene, with a distinctive lilting voice and a wonderful way with traditional songs. On this record she sings some standard Christmas fare — carols like “Here We Come A-Wassailing” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, the latter given a slow and surprisingly effective tempo — with songs, both sweet and sad, that draw more strongly on the folk tradition, like “Serving Girl’s Holiday” and “The Miner’s Dream of Home”. It’s an unconventional combination, but convincing in her hands. Here is “The Holly and the Ivy”:

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2015

Master of Salzburg, c.1400

Wishing you and yours a very happy
and blessed Christmas season.



Annan Waters

July 20, 2011

And woe betide you, Annan Waters.
By night you are a gloomy river,
And over you I’ll build a bridge
That nevermore true love can sever.

Here is an English folk song that has been spinning its enchanting web around me for a few months. I had heard it before, from various singers, but it was only upon hearing a luminous performance by Kate Rusby (on her record Hourglass) that the beauty of the song really came through to me. It is a sad song, as is so often the case in this reportoire, about a young man who, after a desperate and exhausting night-time ride to see his ‘wondrous bonnie’ lover, attempts to swim across the river, and drowns.

Oh woe betide the willow wand,
And woe betide the bush and briar,
For you broke beneath my true love’s hand
When strength did fail and limbs did tire.

Here is Kate Rusby’s beautiful version of the song, married to some unrelated but not entirely inappropriate imagery. The volume level of this clip is quite high, and I found I had to turn it down to avoid distortion. (Mind you, my speakers are about as poor as speakers can be.) The full lyrics to the song are here.