– Bethlehem Down (Peter Warlock, recorded by the King’s Singers). Poor Peter Warlock, who put out the cat and turned on the gas at the end of a turbulent, too-short life, left behind a goodly number of modern Christmas carols, of which the modally flavored “Bethlehem Down,” written in 1927, is the most frequently performed and (in my opinion) the prettiest. This performance is part of an unusually wide-ranging program of carols that also includes an exquisitely sung version of Praetorius’s “Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen,” which might just be my all-time favorite traditional carol.
– Bounce of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Tchaikovsky-Shavers, recorded by the John Kirby Sextet). I have a sweet tooth for jazzed-up classics from the swing era, and this riffy, dapper version of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” charms my socks right off.
– A Ceremony of Carols (Benjamin Britten, recorded by Osian Ellis, Sir David Willcocks, and the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge). If you’ve never heard it, order this CD right now.
– The Christmas Song (Mel Torm