Having been a member of several choirs over the past few years, I've become familiar with many of the popular and no-so-popular choral pieces for the Christmas season. Western societies have drifted away from choral music appreciation, in general, with the exception of the Christmas holiday season, so many choirs spend a good part of the year preparing for their holiday concerts, and there are stacks of recordings of these songs available from a variety of sources.
Last year, a compilation of recordings from many of the Princeton (NJ) choral ensembles was released, with the proceeds going to the UN's World Food Program. A Princeton Christmas: For The Children Of Africa, Vol. 2 is now available with more songs from the city's music community.
The quality of the recordings varies from track to track. There are many variables contributing to this, including the location of the recording, the skills of the recording engineer, and the performances by the ensembles. However, these are compilation albums, and one must expect a little variation between tracks.
As ambient music, the recordings barely make a blip, with the occasional exceptional performance that stands out above the rest. For example, the sweetness and purity of tone in the performance of "This Christmastide (Jessye's Carol)" by The Tartantones of Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart is so stunning that the listener is sure to pause and take note. The American Boychoir's performance of "Hodie Christus Natus Est" is likely to cause the same reaction.
If you've heard a country version of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" one too many times this season, or if any other rendition of "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" performed by your grade school child/sibling/cousin/whatever will push you over the edge, then I suggest you pick up either or both volumes of A Princeton Christmas: For The Children Of Africa. With the selections of classic and classical Christmas songs performed by musicians who care more about the music than about cashing in on the season, these are Christmas albums worth owning.