“The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing”
Where there’s success in today’s world, there’s often merchandising to go with it and so it should be of little surprise that the folks behind TV behemoth Downton Abbey have released a Christmas album which is enterprisingly called Christmas at Downton Abbey. The double CD sprawls over 45 tracks in a determined bid to cover every single possible festive base (and a few more besides) in a rather generic manner, though where it offers the opportunity for cast members to contribute, it has its moments of interest.
The gravelly warmth of Jim Carter’s voice reciting ‘‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ is wonderfully atmospheric, Elizabeth McGovern brings a music-box-like charm to ‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’ and Julian Ovenden brings his customary leading man vocal confidence to classics like ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘Silent Night’ . And though their voices might not instinctively fit together, something rather beautiful happens on ‘The First Noel’ where they duet gorgeously, harmony lines dipping in and out with a delicate grace that is most beguiling.
Elsewhere, all the traditional carols are present and correct sung mostly by Kings College’s Choir, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa lends her crystalline soprano to a few numbers, and classical Christmas treats from Vivaldi and Corelli appear alongside excerpts from the The Nutcracker. This all-encompassing nature leads to a couple of baffling inclusions – Libera’s ‘Panis Angelicus’ sounds gorgeous but has little Christmas spirit and Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ even less so, presumably there for its recognition factor. Still, it’s a good value, varied collection if you’re looking for a stocking filler this year.