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24 September 2014
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In The Bleak Midwinter
hits top spot as greatest carol ever


In the Bleak Midwinter has been crowned the king of carols by a selection of the world's leading choirmasters and choral experts.


In a close-run poll carried out by BBC Music Magazine, the carol was voted ahead of well-known favourites including Once in Royal David's City, Ding Dong Merrily on High and Silent Night.


Jeremy Pound, Deputy Editor of BBC Music Magazine, commented: "Christina Rosetti's poem of 1872 is nigh-on perfect as a carol text: there's the winter cold, the coming of Christ, the description of the nativity scene and, finally, that 'What shall I give him?' moment of self-reflection. And then there's the music.


"While Gustav Holst's charming setting of 1909 is rightly loved by millions worldwide, it is the less well known but infinitely more stylish setting by Harold Darke from two years later that convincingly won the day in our poll."


While the top 10 includes another perennial favourite – O Come All Ye Faithful – the remaining carols are largely better known within the choral world, and include Pearsall's 1837 arrangement of In Dulci Jubilo and Herbert Howell's 20th century composition A Spotless Rose, which took second and third place respectively.


Voted for by 51 directors of music in the UK and US with knowledge of the carol book that is arguably second to none, the results of this poll reveal the very best carols to listen out for this Christmas.


Jeremy Pound said: "While some of the carols nominated may seem unfamiliar – indeed popular sing-alongs including While Shepherds Watched, The Holly and the Ivy and The Twelve Days of Christmas failed to make even the top 50 does any other song get to the very heart of Christmas as understatedly but effectively as In the Bleak Midwinter?"


The 50 Greatest Carols by Jeremy Pound will be published in the December issue of BBC Music Magazine, on sale 27 November, £4.50.




BBC Music Magazine recently asked 51 choirmasters and choral experts in the UK and US to name their five favourite carols and Christmas motets. When the votes were added up, the following top 10 emerged:

  1. In the Bleak Midwinter
  2. In Dulci Jubilo
  3. A Spotless Rose  
  4. Bethlehem Down
  5. Lully, Lulla
  6. Tomorrow Shall be My Dancing Day
  7. There is No Rose
  8. O Come All Ye Faithful
  9. Of the Father's Heart Begotten
  10. What Sweeter Music

BBC Music Magazine
BBC Music Magazine is the world’s best-selling classical music magazine. It has a monthly circulation of 47,104 (ABC Jan-Dec 2007) and is published by BBC Magazines Bristol, a trading name of Bristol Magazines Ltd., which is a subsidiary of BBC Worldwide Ltd., the main commercial consumer arm of the BBC.



Carolyn Wray



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Date : 27.11.2008
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