“We live in a beautiful world”. Thus sang Chris Martin on “Don’t Panic”, the opening song of their debut album. But we don’t. We live in a world where, to quote Super Hans from Peep Show, “People like Coldplay and voted for the Nazis, you can’t trust people Jez”. This year has seemed like a dark abyss from which there is no escape. But don’t worry everyone, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. One could even say, a star on top of the tree, or a bauble glimmering in the light of a warm, crackling fire. Yes Christmas is here! Christmas is coming! Christmas, the season of foods based weirdly around the concept of mincemeat, which is something I still find confusing, and the time of year for us all to unite and sing some good Christmas carols.
To get into the 7th week Oxmas spirit, let’s have a look at some of our favourite Christmas carols. I’ve been listening to the strongly named “Christmas Carols” by “The Oxford Trinity Choir”. I recommend getting the Deluxe edition which comes with a bonus track recording of Trinity Freshers hilariously singing “Will Grigg’s on Fire” in the Sheldonian. So, here we go:
Once in Royal David’s City
The first inescapable thought with this classic is that the wording in the title is way off. Unless we take the title as pointing out that the city isn’t just David’s, it’s Roy and Al’s too, it should be “Once in David’s Royal City”. Once you notice this, you can’t unnotice it. Frankly, the carol is ruined. This is a thoroughly overrated carol and it’s a real shame that this has become the one which always has a solo at the beginning. I hoped for an edgier choice from Trinity, but I was let down.
Carol rating: 4/10
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Wait, what’s this? Third on the tracklisting and we hit something which is definitely not a carol. It may be a Christmas song, but it is not a carol. Sort it out…
Carol rating: No
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Any carol with a reference to Kanye in the title goes down a winner in my book. This carol is notable for featuring in a pretty decent Doctor Who episode, where robots dress up as Father Christmas, and proceed to play as a brass band in the town square – until Doctor Who comes past, and then their musical devices turn into instruments of torture. The trumpet becomes a flame thrower and, impressively, the tuba turns into a grenade launcher. What impresses me is that the robots spent time not just making weapons which could double up as genuine musical instruments, but also that they learned those instruments. Frankly, the robots deserve our respect for such dedication. Well done, robots.
Carol rating: 6/10
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Trinity go rogue here. They play an alternative arrangement and, being blunt, it doesn’t pay off. It was a bold move but it falls flat. The original arrangement of this song, though, has a solid tune, especially the middle bit of the verse which contains lots of notes in quick succession which is quite fun to sing.
Carol rating: 8.2/10
O Come All Ye Faithful
Another Kanye reference heralds what is unquestionably one of the titans of carols. If this carol was a person it would be Roy Jenkins. Everyone loves Roy Jenkins. But wait – what’s this? Controversial gender politics in the carol? Oh yes – during the chorus women are meant to sing the first refrain of “O come let us adore him”, followed by the men in the next refrain. Next time you’re in church, do your bit for gender equality by joining in for both. Come on Oxford, you can do it.
Carol rating: Roy/10
Joy to the World
Honestly, could there be a happier carol than this? Joy to the World raises a faint smile, as you realise that there’s still good in a world which voted for Trump – and, hey, Hilary won the popular vote. Things are going to be alright. Bonus marks for Trinity, who manage to fit an extended drum solo into the mix. Well played.
Carol rating: Joy/10
Away in a Manger
This is another one which is overrated. It’s the child’s “Once in Royal”. There is very little redeemable about this carol – the lyrics aren’t inventive; the tempo is slow, and it’s always sung in a key so high you end up sounding like full on Thom Yorke.
Carol rating: Denied/10
Trinity were doing so well but they slip up here and drop not the mic but the baton and their hopes. Jerusalem is a hymn. To place it on an album entitled “Christmas Carols” is a misstep.
Rating: Sort it out Trinity/10
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Yes. “O Come” is not just the best carol, it’s also got a good claim as one of the Church’s best hymns. It’s definitely up there with “Crown Him with Many Crowns” and “Nothing But the Blood”. From the spine-tingling verse, it lets loose at the chorus. Sounds great featuring organ as well.
Rating: 10/10 would carol again
So there we have it. Thanks very much, Trinity Choir. I look forward to seeing you again soon. And have a very Merry Oxmas everyone! Night night.