Since the angelic choir sang to the shepherds on the very first Christmas night, choirs have been an essential part of Christmas. This holiday season, some of the nation's best choral groups have come to Beliefnet to sing for you: church choirs, community choruses and professional ensembles perform favorite carols, old and new, for our fourth Christmas Choir Celebration. Enjoy the music!

Gloriae Dei Cantores
Orleans, MA • Elizabeth Patterson, Conductor
Listen: The Star Carol (Alfred Burt)
Listen: My Dancing Day (Gerald Near)
Buy it Choir website

Colorful arrangements of favorite carols, artfully sung, framed by choirs of cheerful brass and sparkling bells--what better way to celebrate Christmas? The fabulous Gloriae Dei Cantores delighted us with their skillful and expressive singing in the touching tenderness of The Star Carol, the graceful lilt of My Dancing Day, and festive carols with orchestra.

In addition to the Cantores, the Gloriae Dei Artes Foundation includes a highly regarded Gregorian chant Schola, a theater company, dance company, brass ensemble, and what we think is one of the world's best handbell choirs. So to spread extra holiday cheer, we're including selections from the handbell and Gregorian chant CDs.
Listen: March of Kings: Gloriae Dei Ringers Buy it
Listen: Puer natus est: Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola Buy it

Trinity Church, Copley Square
Boston, MA • Brian Jones, Conductor
Listen: O magnum mysterium (Morton Lauridsen)
Buy it Choir website
The thoughtful selection of music on this inspiring CD is radiant indeed, and the singing superb. At the approach of the millennium, a new spirituality began to infuse classical music, reflected in these transcendent works by Tavener, Pärt, Gowers, Biebl and others. Lauridsen's luminous O magnum mysterium captures the quiet awe and mystery surrounding Christ's birth.

Bach Choir of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA • Brady Allred, Conductor
Listen: Comfort, comfort ye my people (arr. Joseph M. Martin)
Buy it Choir website
The 16th century composer Goudimel probably never imagined quite so exuberant a performance of his famous Advent tune, but we like it! Isaiah's words of hope spring forth amidst blazing trumpets in just one example of the diverse program, which also includes "The Dream Isaiah Saw," a moving carol written after September 11, and a hilarious musicological parody of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Seattle Pro Musica
Seattle, WA • Karen P. Thomas, Conductor
Listen: In dulci jubilo (Michael Praetorius)
Buy it Choir website
Many of our beloved Christmas traditions originated in Germany (Christmas trees, for example), so we were glad to see an album of famous German carols, brightly sung by Seattle Pro Musica. Praetorius' joyous setting of In dulci jubilo and other favorites are presented alongside their authentic original versions. Carols by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Distler are also featured, and of course the most famous German carol of all, Stille nacht (Silent night).

The Century Men
Nationwide • Buryl Red, Conductor
Listen: O Jerusalem in the mornin’ (arr. Buryl Red)
Buy it Choir website
The imagined sounds of a first-century Jerusalem barnyard are the backdrop for this rockin' Christmas spiritual. The 100 members of The Century Men are directors of music in Baptist churches across America. Conductor Buryl Red and friends have created upbeat contemporary carol arrangements for the fine voices, orchestra and synthesizers, framed by atmospheric interludes and "digital reflections."

Coro Femenino de la Pontificia Universidad Cathólica del Perú
Lima, Peru • Isabel Salas Rivera, Conductor
Listen: Salve Regina (Renzo Bracesco)
Buy it   Choir website
South America's rich tradition of classical choral music is the highlight here. This excellent Peruvian women's ensemble offers a reverent performance of Peruvian composer Renzo Bracesco's Salve Regina, as well as exquisite renditions of treble-voice motets by Mozart, Lotti, Pergolesi, Bach, Poulenc, Fauré and others.

Connecticut Choral Artists
New Britain, CT • Richard Coffey, Conductor
Listen: Bring a torch, Jeannette, Isabella (arr. Shaw/Parker)
Buy it Choir website
CONCORA's audience voted for their favorite Christmas carols, and the 21 winners were recorded live in concert for this CD. You'll probably find your favorites, like this selection, as well as a few you might not know yet but are sure to enjoy. We especially loved the beautiful Hebrides Lullaby, carols from the Yale archives, and a fun arrangement of the humorous "Christmas is coming."

Menlo Park Presbyterian Church
Menlo Park, CA • Doug Lawrence, Director
Listen: Sing we now of Christmas (arr. Mark Hayes)
Buy it Choir website
One would expect a large church in California's Silicon Valley to be technology-rich, and Menlo Park Presbyterian Church takes full advantage of electronic enhancement to enrich the music and worship experience of the congregation of 3,000. Though the technology was impressive, we were especially drawn to enthusiastically performed traditional selections like this cheerful French carol.

St. Louis Chamber Chorus
St. Louis, MO • Philip Barnes, Director
Listen: What child is this (arr. John Stainer)
Buy it Choir website
Carols and Christmas hymns from England's Victorian era are featured on this recording. The St. Louis Chamber Chorus sings favorite arrangements by Stainer, Sullivan, Wood and others with expressive clarity and precision.

Choir of the Monks of Chevetogne
Chevetogne, Belgium • P. Maxime Gimenez, Director
Listen: Kontakion of the Nativity
Buy it Choir website
Russian Orthodox music has grown in popularity in recent years for its deep spirituality and evocative texts. In this traditional Slavonic chant from the Christmas liturgy, the monks sing in rich harmonies, "Today the Virgin gives birth to him who is above all being, and the earth offers a cave to him who is beyond our reach... to us is born a young child, the pre-eternal God."

Schola Sancta Caecilia
Oswego, NY • Tom Castilano, Director
Listen: O Jesu Christe (Jacquet de Berchem)
Buy it
We were very impressed by this small vocal ensemble of eight singers from two families; the children are the soprano section and Moms and Dads sing the lower parts. The ensemble first sang in 1998 for a special Latin Mass in their diocese; various Latin motets are nicely sung on this CD.

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