The season for good voice leading

December 24, 2008

One aspect that much of the old Christmas music has is good voice leading. In lay terms, this means if you have four people all singing together, each part flows smoothly and doesn’t jump all over the place. Most of the songs have four parts and are adeptly harmonized. It is exactly this kind of harmonization that we like our first year music theory students to know how to do.

So in a world where voice leading is somewhat of a lost art, I love the voice leading in Christmas music. It makes you want to be with people, harmonizing closely.

One of the best four part harmonizations is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Here, is that song with only a melody over a drone — an interesting variant of the original and hauntingly updated by Loreena McKennitt.

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