Regifting Some Gems From Holidays Long Past

Candles and music i i

hide captionSome songs are played every year, but others languish unsung.

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Candles and music

Some songs are played every year, but others languish unsung.

iStock

We're all familiar with the famous holiday songs like "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World" — sometimes too familiar. But just like that box of misfit toys up in the attic, there are countless songs that no one plays anymore. Tom Manoff looks at some music he's listening to this season that never made it to the favorites list, from the medieval Hungarian to the early American.

Misfit Tunes: Little Known Holiday Music

Cover for Christmas Music From Medieval Hungary

Christmas Music From Medieval Hungary

  • Artist: Anonymous 4
  • Song: Omnes Unanimiter

The haunting, cerebral sounds in this tune reach back to a tradition at least a thousand years old, and most likely far older. Written by an unknown composer in medieval Hungary, it's performed to perfection by the vocal group Anonymous 4.

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  • "Omnes Unanimiter "
  • Album: Christmas Music From Medieval Hungary
  • Artist: Anonymous 4
  • Label: Classical Express
  • Released: 2001
 
Cover for Carols From The Old And New Worlds, Vol. II

Carols From The Old And New Worlds, Vol. II

  • Artist: The Pro Arte Singers
  • Song: Shiloh

Born in Boston before the American Revolution, composer William Billings is regarded today as the father of American choral music. His style was often criticized as rough-hewn in comparison with European music. It is unmistakably American with its sturdy New England hymn influence. This energetic Christmas piece is conducted by the legendary choral conductor Paul Hillier.

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  • "Shiloh"
  • Album: Carols From The Old And New Worlds, Vol. II
  • Artist: The Pro Arte Singers
  • Label: Harmonia Mundi
  • Released: 1998
 
Cover for A Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols

A Festival Of Nine Lessons & Carols

  • Artist: King's College Choir of Cambridge
  • Song: A Tender Shoot

The Kings' College Cambridge Choir is one of the finest choral groups in the world. I play them endlessly throughout the holiday season. Here's a little-known carolĀ  called "A Tender Shoot," which, as the words tell us: "Blooms in the cold bleak winter, turning out darkness into light."

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  • "A Tender Shoot"
  • Album: A Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols
  • Artist: King's College Choir of Cambridge
  • Label: EMI
  • Released: 1999
 
Cover for A Feast of Songs: Holiday Music from the Middle Ages

A Feast of Songs: Holiday Music From The Middle Ages

  • Artist: Barry Hall
  • Song: Patapan

Barry and Beth Hall are folk musicians who play medieval music with exuberance. This instrumental piece is based on the old Christmas carol "Patapan."

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Purchase Featured Music

  • "Patapan"
  • Album: A Feast of Songs: Holiday Music from the Middle Ages
  • Artist: Barry Hall
  • Label: Hallistic
  • Released: 2003
 

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