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Saturday, December 24, 2011

The world's most depressing Christmas Carols

Let's face it -- the best, most haunting Christmas Carols have a tinge of melancholy. They reach for a beauty that human beings can't touch.

"Balulalow" by Benjamin Britten, from his 1942 "Ceremony of Carols." Look, even if you can't stand the classics, just listen to this one. (It's short.) If the sheer beauty of the thing doesn't make your hair stand endwise, you must not have any hair.

The Coventry Carol, here performed gorgeously by Hayley Westenra. My favorite Christmas Carol ever -- and one of the most depressing songs ever written. If you go to Google Video and type in "Christmas Carol depressing," nearly all of the results will point to the Coventry Carol.

The most depressing opening to a children's Christmas show imaginable.

I always thought that "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" had a decidedly non-merry tone to it. This version is by some fellow named Ferras, previously unknown to me. His singing is far too pop-oriented and unrestrained for my classically-oriented tastes. But: He gets it.

I just discovered this. Gorgeous. Both the song and the singers. Gorgeous.

After "The Coventry Carol," this must be the most haunting of all Christmas songs, even though it's really an Easter song.

If you're curious about the background of this beautiful piece of music, I have just the video for you...

Happy Holidays! (I phrased it that way to depress our friends in the red states.)
merry xmas joseph!!! hope the use of 'xmas' ticks off those fundies!). although i love your selection of 'depressing' carols, especially the britten, i still get a kick out of one you posted before, miss fogarty's christmas cake--i'd never heard it before.

best to you and yours,
Happy Everything, Joseph. Good music! I'm nicely Christmasly depressed now. ;-)
I love the echoey sound in most of the videos - as though they were singing in a vast, beautiful old cathedral - as they could well have been, I guess.
The Coventry Carol is beautiful, I've always found it so. The Charlie Brown one though, annoyed me even as a kid, it's on my strongly dislike list. The depressing songs that are on my most disliked list tops with these two: Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne". It ends with clip of "Old Lang Syne" but the song takes place on Christmas Eve. I hate it because the dude sounds so whiny I can see why the lady dumped him ;) "Christmas Shoes"- that's the top of the holiday songs I loathe- I hate the over the top manipulation of it.

More favorites now- "I'll be home for Christmas" (now that's how to "manipulate" feelings the right way- I know the line "if only in my dreams" makes me tear up, but not feel overly manipulated into it.)

Another like that, but with a theme of a plaintively hopeful plea is my favorite- John and Yoko's "Happy X-mas (War is Over)" It will make me tear up every time, sometimes sobbing- depending how rough the last year had been for me. This has been a rough one for me so needless to say there's been a lot of sobbing. (Thankfully, just this past week I received my first bit of hopeful news on those painful fronts- so things may actually be looking up for me in the new year- first time in quite a while... I've had such bad luck for the last 4 years. Just have to make it through one more anxious week, then as the song goes: "lets hope it's a good one without any fears/tears.")
Ciardha, you're right about "I'll be Home for Christmas." It conjures up images of soldiers in WWII, taking time out from the fighting in Belgium to decorate a tree...

I don't listen to the Lennon anymore.

"So this is Christmas...
And what have you done
Another year older
And a new one just begun..."

Yow. Who wants THAT? That's too much of a downer even for me.

Fortunately, Lennon rewrote the rest of the lyrics. My sources told me that they originally went like this...

"And so this is Christmas
Please notice I'm rich
While you're just a failure
A fat stupid bitch!

"You're a faaaai-lure...Why don't you die...Now-ow-ow-ow!"

Yeah. Not my favorite song in the world.
Unlike Ciardha, I'm a total sucker for the Charlie Brown Christmas theme song--and the special as well--perhaps because of the use of real children's voices, which can be quite moving in their innocence and vulnerability (for total suckers).

For two other fairly modern contenders for great depressing Christmas Carols, there's Pretty Paper by Willy Nelson and made famous by Roy Orbison (which also gets my vote for the best ever country music Christmas Carol) and 2000 Miles by Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders.

I'm hoping your Christmas season is anything but depressing, and I wish you all the best in the New Year!
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