Christmas Songs: An expert's Top 10

UNIVERSITY PARK – When it comes to Christmas songs, everyone has their personal favorite. Maybe it’s a timeless classic like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” or something irreverent like “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer."

There’s no right or wrong answer, of course. We decided to talk to an expert, so we asked Penn State’s Dr. Christopher Kiver what his personal favorites are. Kiver is the an Associate Professor of Music and the Director of Choral Activities.

Here’s his personal top 10:

10. “All I Want for Christmas Is You”

Kiver’s take: “Can't beat this catchy Mariah Carey number from the mid 1990s.”

9. “Carol of the Bells”

Kiver’s take: “Composed in 1914 by Ukrainian composer, Mykola Leontovych, this is a standard for the season with a simple, repetitive melodic figure that sticks in the brain.  Has appeared in Hollywood movies through a groovy version by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and beyond.”

8. “Bethlehmu”

Kiver’s take: “A Nigerian carol for choir and percussion arranged by Wendell Whalum.”

7. “Sleigh Ride”

Kiver’s take: “A charming orchestral work by English composer Frederick Delius. You can hear the sleigh moving along in the crisp winter air.”

6. “Carol Symphony”

Kiver’s Take: “An orchestral setting by British composer Victor Hely-Hutchinson.  The third movement has a beautiful take on Silent Night. Check out 10:06.”

5. “Little Drummer Boy”

Kiver’s Take: “Written in 1941 and apparently first recorded in 1951 by the Trapp Family Singers (the ones in The Sound of Music).  Whoever would have thought that Bing Crosby and David Bowie would make such a great pair?”

4. “Jingle Bells”

Kiver’s Take: “Who doesn't know this one? Apparently originally written for Thanksgiving. Here is a terrific arrangement sung by the greatest crooner of them all, Frank Sinatra, with the incomparable Nelson Riddle Orchestra.”

3. “Silent Night”

Kiver’s Take: “The story goes that in 1818, in an Austrian village, the church organ had been damaged by mice.  Needing some music for the Christmas Eve service, this timeless melody was composed in a few hours by the organist Franz Gruber, to be accompanied by guitar.”

2. “A Christmas Festival” (Leroy Anderson)

Kiver’s Take: “A lovely medley of seasonal melodies penned by Leroy Anderson, one of the great American composers of light music.”

1. “Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming”

Kiver’s Take: “A gorgeous melody composed in 14th century Germany. This choral arrangement by Jan Sandström is particularly beautiful.”

There you have it! Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know on social media (@happyvalleypsu).

Back to Top