Monday, December 07, 2020

Find new songs for the winter and festive season

It’s the time of year when many choirs roll out their familiar winter repertoire. Whether it be Christmas carols or Hanukkah songs, they tend to be the same old favourites.

But what if you want to try something different? Here are some resources for discovering new songs for the winter festivals.

I don’t know about you, but I do get a little bored with hearing the same old songs at this time of year. A few traditional carols are OK, but it seems that the same few are wheeled out every year.

Christmas is not the only festival at this time of year, and there are also beautiful traditional winter songs from many European countries.

Here are a few resources that might help find something new for your choir.

Smithsonian Folkways holiday music map

A clever map from Smithsonian Folkways:

“The Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa holiday traditions feature an incredibly diverse range of musical accompaniment. This sampling from the Smithsonian Folkways collection includes 56 songs from 24 nations.”

You can go on an “audio tour” to hear all the songs, or pick and choose from the map.

You can find the map here:

Kitka wintersongs

Kitka women’s vocal ensemble from the US have an annual December concert tradition. This series of concerts showcases seasonal music from a wide variety of Eastern European and Eurasian lands, as well as original new works inspired by midwinter mysteries.

They have produced a Wintersongs CD which is a collection of songs from their concerts of 2000 – 2003. There is also an accompanying Wintersongs songbook. Both can be purchased from the Kitka online shop.

Mama Lisa’s world

Mama Lisa’s world is a website featuring children's songs from around the globe.  It features thousands of traditional songs from hundreds of countries and cultures. The site was started, and is overseen by Lisa Yannucci.

Mama Lisa’s world has an extensive collection of Christmas carols from around the world. For each song they provide the original language lyrics, with an English translation. Most have recordings, YouTubes and sheet music.

Christmas carols from different Bulgarian regions

Most European countries celebrate Christmas the night before 25th December. In Bulgaria it is known as Koleduvane. On this page you can find downloadable audio recordings of five traditional Koleduvane songs together with some background information: Christmas carols from different Bulgarian regions.

Romanian carols

Cătălin Frâncu is a Romanian computer scientist who, in his spare time, typesets some Romanian choral scores. He has 18 Romanian carols on his website with PDF scores and MIDI recordings of each SATB part. You can find them here:

Alison Burns

Alison Burns is a a songwriter, song arranger and workshop leader based in southwest Scotland. She has many sacred and secular songs for Solstice, Christmas, New Year for sale on her website: Including collections of three new folk carols and three rounds for winter, Christmas and new year.

Hanukkah song resource

There are many traditional and modern songs for Hanukkah. This site gathers a few resources for finding recordings and lyrics for classic and modern Hanukkah songs:

And here are some recommendations for Jewish choral music for Hanukkah:

Kwanzaa songs

The purpose of Kwanzaa is to celebrate African-American heritage and community. It was first celebrated in 1966, so Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday and songs pertaining directly to it are still few in number.

Here is a list of children’s songs, many of which teach the seven principles of Kwanzaa:

The OUP blog has a playlist for exploring the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

traditional Christmas carols

And if you need a reminder of some beautiful traditional Christmas carols, try this.

Blair Thornburgh has compiled a list entitled The Only Christmas Carols That Are Any Good, A Definitive and Absolute List, Fight Me. See if you agree!

other resources

There must be loads more resources for winter and festive songs out there. Do leave a comment and share your favourites.


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Chris Rowbury




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