From century-old hymns to other, more modern classics, music plays a major role in Christmas traditions. For many, Christmas music is a significant part of the yearly festivities, and it brings people together.
In the North West of England there are many choirs, carollers, and bands that sing and perform during the festive season. For those who take part, there are a great number of reasons why they take the time.
Christmas music history
Christmas carols first emerged after early Christianity turned the Pagan solstice tradition into Christmas, giving people Christmas songs to sing. In 129AD, a Roman bishop said that a song, named the Angel’s Hymn, would be sung at Christmas services in Rome. From then on, a number of composers across Europe began to create their own Christmas music.
Many of the Christmas carols still known and sung today originate from the Piae Cantiones, a Latin collection of songs first published in 1582. It contained many enduring songs including Good King Wenceslas and Christ Was Born on Christmas Day.
Traditionally, Christmas music was a way to recite the story of the birth of Jesus. While in a modern context this may no longer be true, the traditions of Christmas music have continued on and become beloved over the years.
Preston Orpheus Choir
Across the country, choirs are one of the common sounds you can expect to hear around this time of year. Preston Orpheus Choir is one of the many groups that sings Christmas carols around that city. At a recent performance, A Festive Christmas on 9 December at St Michael and All Angels Church, the singers were joined by the Freckleton Band.
“The great thing is that even though we only sing the music once a year, it’s very familiar to us … very joyful, and just happy,” says Mick Gardener, a member of Preston Orpheus Choir. While Christmas is their busiest period, Mick enjoys the choir all year round. “I just enjoy singing. That’s the top and bottom of it. It does me good, keeps me sane, and I just love singing.”
The Freckleton Band
The Freckleton Band, a brass band, begins its Christmas rehearsals in early November and performs throughout December. This year its final concert was Christmas All Wrapped Up, performed on 17 December at the Lowther Pavilion in Lytham St Annes.
Members of the band really enjoy this special time of year. “When it comes to Christmas, [a brass band] is synonymous with it for a lot of people. In the UK at least, a brass band is part and parcel of it all,” says Adam Taylor, the Freckleton Band’s conductor.
While Christmas is the band’s busiest period, members consider it to be important to them throughout the year. Kath Trelfall, chair and member of the band, says: “I’ve been playing the cornet and the trumpet since I was at primary school so my life kind of revolves around banding. I met my husband and met friends through the band.”
Alongside the typical Christmas performances, the band has a new challenge this year, called #EveryStreetFreckleton. It aims to perform on all 107 streets of Freckleton in order to raise money to support the band. To do this, it splits into different groups to cover as many streets as possible per night. The campaign began on 4 December, with the final night to take place on Boxing Day.
Whatever your musical traditions at Christmas, may you have a wonderful one.