Main: John Whiting’s Christmas Collection

in Radio Riel Main

by Elrik Merlin on Saturday, 20 December, 2014

Included in our Main Stream music programming today at 11am and 7pm Pacific Time will be a very special treat: a marvellous compilation of Christmas music, mainly in a classical and Early Music vein, originally compiled by John Whiting, a staff member of the famous KPFA radio station in Berkeley in the 1960s. Many thanks to John for making these recordings available to us today.

He writes,

When I joined the staff of the UC Berkeley Music Library in 1958, I was asked to put together a selection of appropriate music for the University Library’s Christmas party. For a couple of delightful weeks I spent my spare time going through various record collections, including my own, and making a selection of Christmas music, ancient and modern, that avoided the usual war‐horses. (Bing Crosby’s lugubrious rendition of Silent Night was conspicuous by its absence.) The tapes were played every subsequent Christmas.

Four years later at KPFA I put them up as miscellany to fill the odd gaps in the broadcast schedule during the Christmas season. In 1966 I brought the masters with me to London, where, as sound technology evolved, I transferred them successively to compact cassette, then to minidisk, then to CD and ultimately into mp3…”

John Whiting’s compilation lasts for about two hours and will be broadcast at 11am and 7pm Pacific (7pm and 3am GMT). Needless to say, these pieces are derived from vinyl (and have come through several copies and technologies to reach us today): this may sometimes be noticeable. John’s programme notes list some of the pieces included in the programme:

  • Corelli, Christmas Concerto – First of several recordings by I Musici
  • A Mediaeval Christmas – New York Pro Musica, conducted by Noah Greenberg.
  • Traditional French Carols – Choral/instrumental arrangements from an LP that a friend had brought back from France.
  • Benjamin Britten, Ceremony of Carols – Conducted by the composer. (The pronounciation and intonation of the Danish boys choir leaves something to be desired.)
  • Traditional Early English Carols – Performed by Alfred Deller and the Deller Consort.
  • Hans Leo Hassler, Motets – Deutsche Grammophon Archiv.
  • Hector Berlioz, L’Enfance du Christ – Boston Symphony, conducted by Charles Munch.
  • J. S. Bach, Christmas Oratorio, Opening Chorus & Sinfonia – Deutsche Grammophon Archiv ARC3079. This was one  of the great German conductor Fritz Lehmann’s last recordings before his death in 1955; Gunther Arndt conducted the last two of the six cantatas in 1956. I still have the original LPs.
  • Music of Medieval Court and Countryside – Russell Oberlin, New York Pro Musica conducted by Noah Greenberg. Half a century ago the fans of Russell Oberlin and Alfred Deller were as passionate in their divergence as the followers of Stravinsky and Schoenberg. We in the Oberlin camp prized his instrumental purity and austerity and his extended range, totally free of falsetto; today I metaphorically embrace them both.

If you are in the United States or Canada, please click here to launch the Stream Licensing player. To listen from outside North America, click here to start your player .

This programme is also available in enhanced‐quality AAC. Tune in here:


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