Christmas at Downton Abbey – Various Artists (Warner Brothers)
Tis the season of beautiful bells and holiday hymns. Now you can spend Christmas like the Crawleys with the audibly pleasing Downton Abbey Christmas album. With a picturesque Downton Abbey covered in a blanket of snow, open the cover and you’ll find that some of your favorite characters have come together to sing the songs of the season. The show’s well-known and recognizable theme song is the opening number for both discs, and even those who do not watch the show will be able to appreciate the level and quality of music.
Julian Ovenden (Charles Blake) has an operatic voice that can also lend itself to the Broadway stage. As a child, he sang in the St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir and later received a music scholarship to Eton College. Now, the trained opera singer’s low baritone voice allows him to sing songs such as “O Holy Night,” “The Sussex Carol,” and “Silent Night” with strength and ease. Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham) has a unique, almost quirky yet charming phrasing that has been well conditioned after six years as the lead singer of the rock band Sadie and the Hotheads. McGovern lends her voice to “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” and “The First Noel,” in a duet with her co-star Ovenden. The first disc concluded with Jim Carter’s (Mr. Carson) voice making an appearance as he recounts “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
Among the album’s 45 tracks are versions of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” “The Nutcracker Suite,” “Joy to the World,” and many other classics. It also has several festive versions of the show’s theme song, traditional carols and the two-part “Downton Abbey Suite.” While this particular release being a double-disc may seem excessive, each song only clocks in at around three minutes. Other selections feature performances from Choir of Kings College Cambridge, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Libera, Taverner Choir & Taverner Consort Joel Cohen, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and many more. The album also comes with a carol song sheet so listeners can sing along.
So while you’re decorating the tree, watching the snow fall, or just enjoying a good book with a cup of tea, Christmas at Downton Abbey will take you back to a time of effortless class sophistication, and a time when the holidays were about peace and relaxation. This album is everything that Christmas at Downton Abbey should be; elegant, warm, classical, and simply beautiful.