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Your Guide to the Greatest Christmas Music

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One of the magical elements of Christmas is, of course, the magnificent music of the season. Traditional religious carols and popular tunes in both vocal and instrumental versions give us exceptional enjoyment – and for serious Christmas music enthusiasts, the fun doesn’t end in December. Modern instrumental interpretations of the great Christmas favorites are as just as delightful in July as they are during the holidays. We generally reserve the most solemn music for the period between Thanksgiving and late January, but our playlist for year-long listening includes hundreds of selections. Our tastes might be considered idiosyncratic by some, and we incorporate non-Christmas instrumentals from a few of our favorite artists in our playlist even during the holiday season. We invite you to peruse our selections and compare our musical choices with yours. You may discover some unique artists to add to your own playlist!

We’ll be offering our reviews of artists, albums, and individual songs, and giving you our insight into new offerings. Our exploration of Christmas music begins with the posting of our playlists. Please note that the lists are taken directly from iTunes and include a number of laughable spelling errors.

We use an iPod connected to a multi-room stereo, controlled by a Keyspan TVI-200c Tuneview Remote Control. The TuneView, recently discontinued, uses an iPod dock which connects to the stereo. (Keyspan, now owned by Tripp-Lite, currently offers a similar unit which connects to PCs or Macs running iTunes using a USB cable.) The remote control has an easy-to-read multi-line display that allows you to browse and control the iPod from anywhere within 150 feet.  Unfortunately, the iPod connection to the dock occasionally loses its connection and needs to be restarted. Since it uses the 2.4 Ghz frequency, it is also blocked by operation of microwave ovens. Nonetheless, the system provides incomparable convenience for playing music. There is nothing better than setting the iPod to random play mode and listening to hours of diversified Christmas music!

In order to ensure the highest sound quality, our iPod files are encoded using the Apple lossless audio file format (m4a). This significantly reduces file size compared to raw CD files (in .wav format) but provides a high bit rate for quality equal to a CD.

The playlist ratings are subject to constant reevaluation and occasional changes. Five-star songs are judged to be excellent and suitable for listening at any time. Four-star songs are very good, and are especially entertaining during the holiday season. Three-star songs have some merit but don’t get played often. Songs rated below three stars are disagreeable or unpleasant and are never played.

We’ve gathered over 60 albums with the songs from our 5/4 star playlist in the amazon.com store – check it out!

Playlist: Christmas (and other Instrumentals) 4 and 5 Star Songs (951 songs, 2 days of listening)

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Playlist: Christmas 3 Star Songs (533 songs, 1.2 days of listening)

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Here is a list of the artists found on our main four/five star playlist, ranked by number of songs:

Artist by Last Name Artist by Label Name Songs
Crosby, Bing Bing Crosby 40
People’s Symphony Orchestra of Vienna People’s Symphony Orchestra of Vienna 37
Mormon Tabernacle Choir The Mormon Tabernacle Choir 32
Wilson, Joemy Joemy Wilson 29
Rieu, Andre André Rieu 28
Faith, Percy Percy Faith 27
Horstman, Cindy Cindy Horstman 27
Tami Briggs Tami Briggs 27
Janis, Tim Tim Janis 26
Carpenters, Karen and Richard The Carpenters 25
New Christy Minstrels The New Christy Minstrels 25
London Symphony Orchestra London Symphony Orchestra 23
Arkenstone, David David Arkenstone 22
Woods, Sylvia Sylvia Woods 21
Galway, James James Galway 20
Mannheim Steamroller Mannheim Steamroller 20
Tingstad & Rumbel Eric Tingstad & Nancy Rumbel 20
Boyd, Liona Liona Boyd 19
Mantovani Mantovani 18
Smith, Doug Doug Smith 18
Various Artists Various Artists 18
Yolanda Kondonassis Yolanda Kondonassis 17
Mouskouri, Nana Nana Mouskouri 16
Giulini Quartet The Giulini Quartet 15
Royal College Of Music Chamber Choir Royal College Of Music Chamber Choir 14
Staneslow, Sunita Sunita Staneslow 14
Green Hill Instrumental Classic Green Hill Instrumental Classic 13
Welk, Lawrence Lawrence Welk 13
Christmas Philadelphia Orchestra Christmas Philadelphia Orchestra 11
Panflute and the Regency Orchestra Panflute and the Regency Orchestra 11
Philadelphia Orchestra Philadelphia Orchestra 11
Canterbury Choristers Canterbury Choristers; Newell B. Weight, director 10
Conniff, Ray Ray Conniff 10
Decca Concert Orchestra Rudolph Soundtrack – Decca Orchestra 10
Holiday Favorites Series Holiday Favorites Series 10
Mantovani/Aldrich/Chacksfield Mantovani/Aldrich/Chacksfield 10
Nilsen, John John Nilsen 10
O’Callahan, Mary Mary O’Callahan 10
Petrie, Robin Robin Petrie 10
Ryan, Michael Michael Ryan 10
John, David David John 9
50 Guitars 50 Guitars 8
Christmas Harp Quartet The Christmas Harp Quartet 8
Ferrante & Teicher Ferrante & Teicher 8
Greenwood Tree Greenwood Tree 8
LaDonna Taylor and Prague LaDonna Taylor and Prague 8
New York Symphony Orchestra & Chorale New York Symphony Orchestra & Chorale 8
Norman, Jessye Jessye Norman 8
Hupka, Bob Bob Hupka 7
Riga Studio Orchestra Riga Studio Orchestra 7
Alberts, Lorraine Alberts on the Harp 6
MacNeil, Madeline Madeline MacNeil 6
Zamfir, Gheorghe Gheorghe Zamfir 6
101 Strings Orchestra 101 Strings Orchestra 5
Aldrich, Ronnie Ronnie Aldrich 4
Bernstein, Leonard Leonard Bernstein / The New York Philharmonic & The Mormon Tabernacle Choir 4
Bullock, Robin Robin Bullock 4
Ives, Burl Rudolph Soundtrack – Burl Ives 4
Brewer, Spencer Spencer Brewer 3
Friedemann Friedemann 3
London Festival Orchestra London Festival Orchestra 3
Mehdi Mehdi 3
National Philharmonic Orchestra National Philharmonic Orchestra 3
Te Kanawa, Kiri Kiri Te Kanawa 3
Videocraft Chorus Rudolph Soundtrack – Videocraft Chorus 3
Crescher, Christine Christine Crescher 2
Ellwood, William William Ellwood 2
Harjanne, Jouko Jouko Harjanne 2
Johnson, Paul Paul Johnson 2
Kostia Kostia 2
Lanz, David David Lanz 2
Lauria, Nando Nando Lauria 2
Michael, George George Michael 2
Romantic Strings & Orchestra The Romantic Strings & Orchestra 2
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Royal Philharmonic Orchestra 2
Starlite Singers The Starlite Singers 2
Stein, Ira Ira Stein 2
Symphonion Symphonion 2
Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields 1
Ambrosian Singers With The National Philharmonic Orchestra Ambrosian Singers With The National Philharmonic Orchestra 1
Ancient Future Ancient Future 1
Angelica Quartet The Angelica Quartet 1
Buffett, Peter Peter Buffett 1
Choir Of King’s College, Cambridge The Choir Of King’s College, Cambridge 1
Frank Chacksfield & His Orchestra Frank Chacksfield & His Orchestra 1
Gordon Langford And His Orchestra Gordon Langford And His Orchestra 1
Gratz, Wayne Wayne Gratz 1
Guest, Reg Reg Guest 1
Hale, Corky Corky Hale 1
Hillside Singers Hillside Singers 1
Illenberger, Ralf Ralf Illenberger 1
Jeff Johnson, Brian Dunning & John Fitzpatrick Jeff Johnson, Brian Dunning & John Fitzpatrick 1
London Philharmonic Orchestra London Philharmonic Orchestra 1
Mann, Brian Brian Mann 1
McCandless, Paul Paul McCandless 1
Miller, Roger Roger Miller 1
Mitchell, Bruce Bruce Mitchell 1
Moscow Philharmonic Moscow Philharmonic 1
Mulloy, Robert Belmont’s Robert Mulloy 1
Ohta, Herb “Ohta-San” Herb “Ohta-San” Ohta 1
Orenstein, Janet Rudolph Soundtrack – Janet Orenstein 1
Paris Orchestra The Paris Orchestra 1
Patzakis Patzakis 1
Polyphon Polyphon 1
Regina Regina 1
Sammes Chorus and Singers The Sammes Chorus and Singers 1
September Strings The September Strings 1
Soles, Paul Rudolph Soundtrack – Paul Soles 1
St Clair Entertainment Group St Clair Entertainment Group 1
Stanyan Brass The Stanyan Brass 1
Stanyan Strings The Stanyan Strings 1
Trapezoid Trapezoid 1

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