Hark the herald angels (and all the rest of us) sing. As we tra-la-la-la-la our way through the season, we take a look at the stories behind our favourite carols
ARVO PÄRT: ‘BOGORÓDITSE DJÉVO’
With his native Estonia folded into the Soviet Union, it took a 1981 move to Berlin for the world’s most performed living composer to freely express his Christianity. This beauteous choral piece, drawing deeply on his love of medieval music and Gregorian chant, was commissioned in 1990 by King’s College Choir, Cambridge.
JOHN TAVENER: ‘EX MARIA VIRGINE’
A gift for good friend Charles’ wedding to Camilla in 2005, the man once signed to The Beatles’ Apple label references everything from ancient Islamic text to ‘Ding Dong Merrily On High’ in his altogether heavenly, typically universalist Christmas-themed song cycle.
BOB CHILCOTT: ‘THE SHEPHERD’S CAROL’
A singer with King’s College Choir as man and boy, in 2000 Chilcott was commissioned to write a piece for their annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols and offered up this sublime evocation of nativity. No less an arbiter than ‘Mr Christmas’ himself, composer John Rutter, reckons it “the most beautiful modern carol there is”.
Turn to page 92 of December's The Simple Things for more on the stories behind our favourite carols