Classical Notes

Why operatic climax gives us best Christmas carol of all

God knows how many versions of O Holy Night, we will hear between now and the new year. However, I’m sure the Almighty has the wherewithal to check these statistics to his own approval

Celine Byrne singing O holy Night with the National Symphony Orchestra: Top singers will tell you that the great crescendo depends not so much on how high you can go at the end as how low you can start at the beginning.

The Christmas song O Holy Night interests me in a classical music context, as it is probably the most operatic of all Christmas carols and never fails to grab the genuine spiritual emotion of the festival.

It has a beginning, a middle and an ending that compares favourably with great dramatic arias and its climax has Nessum Dorma appeal. I’m thinking here especially of the great Luciano Pavarotti who sang both with stunning effect. I ...