I'm all for musical excellence and the sound of a traditional choir can be - can be - one of the great joys of musical life. It can also, in the wrong hands, with the wrong voices, be rather painful. In fact, that goes for all singing from X-Factor wannabes to choristers-who-should-never-be.
I purport to be something of a singer myself and not just in the bath. In fact, I love the human voice with a passion. It is the greatest of instruments and I'm an evangelist for the social and medical benefits of singing as an activity.
So, for my third alternative carol (of nine) I thought I'd share an example of the kind of thing I mean. Here's the excellent Taverner Choir with a carol that comes all the way from Boston. (That's Boston, Mass, btw.)
The composer - William Billings - sounds to have been quite a character, described by an eighteenth-century contemporary as 'a singular man... short of one leg and with only one eye.' But let's not hold that against him. His wonderful carol, Methinks I See an Heavenly Host nicely encapsulates my personal belief that everyone can and should sing - but that they should wholeheartedly embrace whatever voice they've got and not try to 'sing' in a particular manner. (Think Hilda Ogden warbling while cleaning or indeed, most if not all contestant on the X-Factor!)
This is rustic, rough-and-ready and racy and about as far removed from the ethereal sound of King's, Cambridge as I can imagine. And it's magnificent.
And today's lesson is also about as far removed from King's as it can be: it's a short poem by Claire Bevan which might strike a chord with every parent of small children involved in the annual performance of primary school nativity plays...