My favorite Christmas carol is also “O Holy Night.” The words are absolutely beautiful. I especially love the poetry of

A thrill of hope,
A weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks
A new and glorious morn!

It’s the soaring music that I love most. And this love has a personal aspect to it. I played the baritone in high school band, and for once we two baritones in the band had a melody ? for “O Holy Night.” But on the night of the performance, my peer was ill, so I defaulted into a solo performance. And I poured my heart into it. I don’t know how it sounded out there, but I believe I played flawlessly.

I have yet to find the perfect recording of this tune. To my ears, someone always messes it up. I desire the song to be performed simply, elegantly, and most importantly, without ostentation ? let the natural flow of the music dip and swell as it will. Of all the recordings I’ve heard, when the arrangement isn’t off-putting, the vocalist gives into the understandable temptation to frolic through the melodic richness and goes astray. It offends me when a vocalist attempts an arrangement that is out of his or her range, or when he or she “cheats” on the high notes by beginning on a lower note and sliding up (“Oh heeeeear the angels’ vo-OICES / Oh ni-IIIIIIGHT divi-IIIIIINE”). I know the song is out of my range; I wouldn’t do it the injustice of attempting it in public. One arrangement I’ve heard is very rich, but it contains the maddening (to me) detail of crowding the verses (e.g., one vocalist starts in on “This is the night” as the first vocalist is still on the “shi” of “the stars are brightly shining”).

Also: Thanks to the SumJenn? the Conqueror Christmas album, I heard the Johnny Cash rendition of “What Child Is This.” A raw, powerful and moving performance.